Chinese professor missing after police burst into his home during TV interview

'I am entitled to express my opinion,' says Sun Wenguang before line goes dead

Jon Sharman
Friday 03 August 2018 16:34
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Chinese professor disappears after police barge into his home mid-interview

A Chinese professor has disappeared after police barged into his home and interrupted a telephone interview he was giving to an American news organisation.

Sun Wenguang was speaking to US government broadcaster Voice of America’s (VOA) Mandarin service on Wednesday night when he said half a dozen officers had gained entry to his apartment in the eastern city of Jinan.

The last thing he was heard to say over the phone, VOA said, was: ”I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech.”

The former Shandong University physics professor was speaking to the broadcaster about the Chinese government’s huge spending on foreign infrastructure projects.

He has long been critical of China‘s communist leadership, most recently protesting over the developments abroad at a time when many Chinese remain poor.

It was seen as a criticism of President Xi Jinping‘s signature “Belt and Road” initiative that has earmarked an estimated £768bn for ports, power plants and other projects linking China to parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond.

The initiative recently ran into difficulties as the countries involved baulked at the massive debts they stood to incur.

Before the line went dead, Mr Sun could be heard saying: “Throwing money around like this is of no benefit to our country and society.”

VOA said it had tried to contact the 84-year-old professor by phone and on WeChat, the popular Chinese social media service, but had not received a response.

It cited unnamed sources as saying he was being held in a military-run hotel.

The Independent has contacted China's ministry of foreign affairs for comment.

Republican senator Marco Rubio said the episode exemplified “authoritarianism”.

He tweeted: “Every time you hear overblown rhetoric about how we are on the verge of “tyranny” or “authoritarianism” in America remember what real tyranny & authoritarianism looks like. In #China the police arrested a Xi critic while he was in the middle of a live interview.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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