Chinese human rights lawyer disappears after posting a letter on WeChat criticizing the government's response to COVID-19

Chinese scholar Zhang Xuezhong speaks about North Korean leadership in a video on his Youtube channel.Screenshot/Youtube

Human rights lawyer Zhang Xuezhong was "taken away" by authorities on Sunday after writing an open letter criticizing the Chinese government's COVID-19 response, the South China Morning Post reported, citing multiple sources.

According to SCMP, the 43-year-old constitutional scholar was forcibly removed from his Shanghai home on Sunday night after posting the letter on popular social media platform WeChat. The letter was addressed to deputies of China's National People's Congress and called out the country for its lack of a modern constitution and for its stifling of social freedoms, highlighted by the pandemic.

In his letter, seen by SCMP, Zhang said that the handling of the coronavirus pandemic was emblematic of deep-rooted issues within the country's leadership. Advertisement

"The outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 epidemic is a good illustration of the problem," he wrote.

"Since January 3, 2020, the [Chinese] foreign ministry had been regularly notifying the US government about the epidemic, but the disease control department was not notifying the people of [China] at the same time. Such an irresponsible attitude towards their people's safety is rare," he continued.

Xinhua/Shen Bohan via Getty Images
Advertisement

"There were few independent professional media to investigate and report on the outbreak, nor did medical professionals provide independent advice to the public … It only shows that the government's long-term tight control of society and people has almost completely destroyed the organization and self-help capabilities of Chinese society."

Zhang also admonished China's treatment of Li Wenliang, a doctor and coronavirus whistleblower who tried to warn his colleagues about a potential coronavirus outbreak in December. Li was forced by Chinese authorities to sign a letter acknowledging that he was "making false comments"; he later died from the coronavirus. "Twenty-two days before [the country's first major lockdown] in the city, Wuhan was still investigating and punishing citizens who had disclosed the epidemic, including Dr. Li Wenliang … showing how tight and arbitrary the government's suppression of society is," Zhang said. Advertisement

Zhang acknowledged that his letter would spark controversy, but encouraged others to speak out.

"The best way to fight for freedom of expression is for everyone to speak as if we already have freedom of speech," he wrote in his WeChat post alongside his letter.

According to SCMP, Zhang was removed from his teaching position at East China University of Political Science and Law in 2013 because of critical statements he made about the Chinese constitution. SCMP said calls to Zhang's mobile phone and messages sent to his WeChat account went unanswered on Monday.Advertisement

China is known for censoring criticism of its policies, and dissenters have been jailed or disappeared after making complaints. Chinese government censors are working in overdrive to protect the party narrative its been drilling down on the country's response to the novel coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan before spreading worldwide.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the Chinese government was silencing coronavirus survivors who want answers on what went wrong with the country's early coronavirus response.

The international community has also increased pressure on China for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, as well as the country's response to the outbreak early on. The European Commission, Sweden, Australia, and others have been calling on China for more transparency in recent weeks. Advertisement

Read the original article on Business Insider
{{}}