July 29, 2020 / 10:57 AM / 11 days ago

Chinese professor who criticized Xi seeks to overturn prostitution charge, lawyer says

BEIJING (Reuters) - A prominent Chinese legal scholar who was detained and then fired after criticising President Xi Jinping hopes to clear his name by overturning a prostitution charge brought against him by police, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Xu Zhangrun, a former constitutional law professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University, was detained by police in Beijing in early July for nearly a week after being accused of soliciting prostitution while in the southwestern city of Chengdu last December.

Xu engaged rights lawyers Mo Shaoping and his partner Shang Baojun on Tuesday night in an effort to overturn the charge, Mo told Reuters.

“Professor Xu engaged us because he rejects the trumped up prostitution charges meant to smear his name,” said Mo.

According to Mo, as evidence of his offence, police from Chengdu’s Qingyang district presented a woman who said she had intercourse with Xu. Xu contends that he had never seen her before, Mo said.

Xu and his lawyers are still deciding the exact course of action to take, Mo said. His options are to lodge an appeal to the Chengdu city-level police or sue the district police, Mo said.

Neither Xu nor the Chengdu district police could be immediately reached for comment.

While Xu was being detained, Beijing’s Tsinghua University fired him for violating its ethical code. It cited the prostitution case as well as various articles Xu had published since July 2018, in a notice seen by Reuters.

Xu, 57, came to prominence in July 2018 for denouncing the removal of the two-term limit for China’s leader.

At the peak of China’s coronavirus outbreak in February, Xu wrote an article calling for freedom of speech. In May, he wrote an article accusing Xi of trying to bring the Cultural Revolution back to China.

Under Xi, China has clamped down on dissent and tightened censorship.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Kim Coghill

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