On Tuesday, one of China’s last remaining liberal think-tanks, Unirule, was evicted from its Beijing offices. The leasing company even went as far as to weld the office doors shut, temporarily imprisoning the employees in an act that serves as a fitting metaphor for the increasing restrictions on political discourse under Xi Jinping.
Founded in 1993 by liberal economist Mao Yushi, Unirule has a history of disagreement with the CCP. In 2009 it successfully fought for the suspension of a legal amendment that would have expanded government land control. In 2012, Mao won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty from the U.S.-based Cato Institute, a free-market think-tank.
Here is more from the South China Morning Post:
In January last year, online censors shut down its website and deleted the social media accounts of several of its [Unirule's] members. Four months later, the institute was barred from holding an academic seminar during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, with staff members arriving at their former office one morning to find the front door locked and the lift button to their floor disabled.
Unirule moved to its current address inside a gated residential community in the west of Beijing in October after being forced to vacate an office building in the city’s downtown area.
The organisation, like other liberal academics and opinion leaders, has been under increased pressure since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012 and began his programme of tightening controls on ideology and clamping down on dissent.
In related news, the New York Times has reported that Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, "took a big risk" when he "delivered the fiercest denunciation yet from a Chinese academic of Mr. Xi's hard-line policies." Professor Xu reportedly wrote an essay that appeared on the website of Unirule.