BEIJING: A liberal law professor of China's Tsinghua University, who openly criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been suspended and placed under investigation, according to a media report on Wednesday.
Xu Zhangrun, 56, was suspended this month after he wrote several articles criticising China over political and social issues, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, quoting his colleague Guo Yuhua.
In an opinion piece last year, Xu questioned the personality cult surrounding Xi and the decision by China's Parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), to scrap the term limit on the Chinese presidency which enables him to remain the country's leader for life.
Holding the posts of head of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and the military, besides Presidency, Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader of the country after Mao Zedong.
Xu's articles, critical of the president, were widely circulated online.
Guo, a sociology professor at the varsity, said she had spoken to Xu since he received the notice from the university telling him he had been suspended, the report said.
"They spoke to him in person (as well) but I am not sure if they actually told him the real reason" why he was suspended, Guo said.
Xu was told he would be suspended from all teaching and research activities while the university conducted an official investigation, according to Guo.
He would not be allowed to take on new students during the suspension period.
Tsinghua University did not respond to inquiries, the Post reported.
Well-known writer Zhang Yihe was one of the first intellectuals to speak out in support of Xu, posting comments on social network WeChat on Sunday questioning the varsity's decision.
Zhang said she did this "not because of politics or conscience" but for friendship.
"I know him well. I, of course, must do something now that he is in difficulty - this is our tradition and morality," she said.
"Hence I want to ask the question: why has Tsinghua University banned him from giving classes?" Guo suggested that Xu had been penalised because of his critical articles.
"Maybe they didn't like what he wrote, and they thought what he wrote was wrong," she said, adding but it's against the law and an unreasonable thing to do.