July 30 (UPI) -- An outspoken Chinese professor who has criticized Xi Jinping is to take legal action following accusations he solicited prostitutes.
Chinese police in the city of Chengdu allege Xu Zhangrun, a constitutional scholar who may have been recently fired from Tsinghua University, was in the southwestern Chinese city in December 2019, when he solicited a sex worker, Hong Kong news service Ming Pao reported Thursday.
Xu has denied the accusation, which comes after he publicly criticized China's leader for Beijing's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the publication of his critique in February, Xu was placed under house arrest, his Internet was disconnected and his social media accounts were suspended, according to his acquaintances who spoke to The Guardian at the time.
Xu's legal counsel said this week the professor couldn't rule out the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
The accusation of engaging prostitutes is slander, Xu's lawyer said.
Tsinghua University said on July 15 that Xu was detained on charges of of paying for sex. The professor was also found to be in violation of China's "Professional Regulations of Higher Education Institutions in the New Era," the university claimed this month.
Xu has been a vocal critic of the government since 2018, when he wrote an essay condemning the Chinese Communist Party's decision to remove term limits for the Chinese president.
"Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, we had a 'supreme leader' with no checks on his power; how could people not have all kinds of strange imaginings and new fears?" Xu wrote at the time, according to CNN.
In February, Xu said in his article he was likely to face penalties for criticizing the Chinese government's response to the coronavirus.
"I can now all too easily predict that I will be subjected to new punishments; indeed, this may well even be the last piece I write," he said at the time.