Apart from his career as an educator, Xu was also a prominent editor, essayist and public intellectual who actively participated in the long term and broad-based professional effort to nudge the People’s Republic in the direction of constitutional rule and legal probity. The incisive critiques of the Xi Jinping era (December 2012-) that Xu Zhangrun published from early 2016, and in particular the powerful warning he had issued in late July 2018 regarding the nation’s direction under its new Chairman For Life (see his Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes 我們當下的恐懼與期待, China Heritage, 1 August 2018), had made him the most famous, and most outspoken internal critic.
On the fateful day of 21 March 2019, the personnel department of Tsinghua University notified Xu Zhangrun that he was suspended from all duties effective immediately pending the results of a global investigation into his ‘case’. Apart from being banned from teaching and any contact with students, Xu’s income was radically reduced; he was also required to refrain from all public engagements, from publishing anything and from contact with the media, be it in China or internationally. Xu was also informed that he was obliged to cooperate fully with the task force appointed to investigate him. Until further notice, his life was on hold; he was required to attend on the university’s eventual adjudication regarding his fate.
We have chronicled the outraged response to Xu Zhangrun’s suspension in China Heritage by publishing a multipart series titled ‘Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University — Voices of Protest & Resistance’. After six months and as this round of persecution reaches a new stage, and to mark the 10th of October 2019 celebration of the original Chinese revolution and the founding of the Republic of China, we offer the following translation as an homage to the professor’s undaunted spirit.