søndag 16. februar 2020

‘This may be the last piece I write’: prominent Xi critic has internet cut after house arrest

The Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun, who published a rare public critique of President Xi Jinping over China’s coronavirus crisis, was placed under house arrest for days, barred from social media and is now cut off from the internet, his friends have told the Guardian. Xu’s passionate attack on the government’s system of controls and censorship, Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear, was published this month as a powerful debate on freedom of speech convulsed the country.

The death on 7 February of whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang, who had tried to warn colleagues about the virus but was reprimanded and silenced by security forces, had triggered an outpouring of grief and anger and an unusual public discussion about censorship.“Li’s death has thoroughly exposed the ills of the party’s governance and control; this has a huge impact on people’s minds,” said Hong Zhenkuai, an independent historian who is currently working outside China, as a visiting scholar at Tokyo University.

The mechanisms that normally constrain Chinese journalists have also eased slightly, with some of the most powerful stories about life in quarantined Wuhan and the latest news about the evolution of the outbreak coming from mainland newsrooms like that of magazine Caixin.