Xia Yeliang knows that he may end up behind bars. He knows that his career in academia — he is a distinguished professor of economics at Peking University — may be about to end. He knows that he may become a social pariah, as friends and colleagues face mounting pressure to avoid him. He knows the anguish his wife may suffer for her loyalty to him.
Like his friend Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace laureate who has spent much of the past 25 years in Chinese prisons, Xia had few illusions about what he was getting into when he signed Charter 08, a valiant manifesto calling for human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. Since then Xia has grown increasingly outspoken in his defense of liberty and his condemnation of Communist Party censorship and persecution. So when he learned that the economics faculty at his university intends to vote this month on whether to expel him, he understood which way the wind was blowing.