A prominent academic has been detained by police the day after he wrote an open letter denouncing China’s constitution as fake and urging politicians to revolt.
Zhang Xuezhong, 44, also attached his proposal for a constitution allowing for democratic elections to choose the country’s leaders and MPs.
The whereabouts of Mr Zhang, who specialises in law, are now unknown. His friends claim that he was detained in front of the gate to his residential compound in Shanghai on Sunday night and that they have not been able to contact him since.
The letter was posted on the social messaging platform WeChat on Saturday, less than two weeks before this year’s National People’s Congress, the Chinese parliament. The meeting, to be held in Beijing on May 22, has been delayed for three and a half months because of the pandemic.
“I do not believe you are legitimate representatives of the Chinese people, neither do I believe that the National People’s Congress is a legitimate parliament,” Mr Zhang wrote. He argued that there is no real debate on national policies among delegates.
“Unfortunately, the current ‘constitution’ of our country is a fake one. A constitution should manifest the political will of the people who do not manage state affairs directly, rather than manifest the political will of a monarch or a political party. It’s not a basic law for the Chinese people to establish and regulate public powers, but a manual for the ruling party to run its regime.”
Without a real constitution, it would be a pipe dream for China to have a modern political system, he wrote.
“Delegates, you can choose to run through the motions like you’ve done in the past, and be a hand-raising machine. But you can also choose to face all the problems and crises in our country to undertake an important historic responsibility, to introduce a new political scenario and to give our country a better future. Should you choose to do that, your name will go down in history for introducing a Chinese constitutional government, you will be remembered for generations. People who come after us would be grateful for your achievements.”
Mr Zhang, once a law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, has long been a vocal critic of the government. His social media accounts were closed in 2011 after he called for the removal of political education classes from the university curriculum. Two years later he was fired.