Ren Zhiqiang: Chinese language tycoon who criticized Xi Jinping’s dealing with of coronavirus jailed for 18 years

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Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate tycoon with shut ties to senior Chinese language officers, disappeared in March after he allegedly penned a scathing essay that month criticizing Xi’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. He was later charged with corruption-related offenses.

On Tuesday, a court docket in Beijing discovered Ren responsible on a number of costs, together with embezzling some $16.three million (110.6 million yuan) in public funds, accepting bribes, and abuse of energy that induced losses totaling $17.2 million (116.7 million yuan) for the state-owned property firm that he as soon as headed.

Judges sentenced him to 18 years in jail and imposed a tremendous of $620,000 (4.2 million yuan). The court docket stated he “voluntarily confessed all of his crimes” and “was prepared to simply accept the court docket’s verdict in spite of everything of his unlawful features have been recovered.”

China’s court docket system has a conviction price of round 99%, in keeping with authorized observers, and corruption costs are sometimes used to go after Communist Social gathering insiders who fall afoul of the management.

Ren’s conviction and heavy sentence seems designed to ship a message to different members of the Chinese language elite that any public criticism or defiance of Xi won’t be tolerated, as Beijing continues to take care of the fallout of the pandemic and faces intense worldwide strain from Washington and others.

‘The Cannon’

Born into the Communist Social gathering’s ruling elite, the 69-year-old Ren had usually been outspoken on Chinese language politics, excess of is often allowed within the authoritarian state.

His forthrightness earned him the nickname “The Cannon” on Chinese language social media.

Within the essay printed in March, extensively attributed to Ren, the creator lashed out on the get together’s crackdown on press freedom and intolerance of dissent. Whereas the essay didn’t point out Xi by identify, it obliquely referred to the nation’s high chief as a power-hungry “clown.”

“I noticed not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new garments,’ however a clown who stripped off his garments and insisted on persevering with being an emperor,” Ren allegedly wrote of Xi’s tackle to 170,000 officers throughout the nation at a mass video convention on epidemic management measures on February 23.

The essay went on to accuse the Communist Social gathering of placing its personal pursuits above the protection of the Chinese language individuals, to safe its rule.

“And not using a media representing the pursuits of the individuals by publishing the precise info, the individuals’s lives are being ravaged by each the virus and the foremost sickness of the system,” Ren allegedly wrote.

Quickly after the essay was printed on-line, Ren disappeared, and kin feared he had been detained. Authorities confirmed Ren was being investigated on corruption associated costs in early April, and expelled the longtime member from the Communist Social gathering in July, paving the way in which for his legal prosecution.

This isn’t the primary time Ren ran afoul of the Chinese language management for talking his thoughts.

In 2016, he was disciplined after questioning on social media Xi’s calls for that Chinese language state media should keep completely loyal to the get together. He was placed on a 12 months’s probation for his get together membership and his wildly fashionable account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was shuttered.

This time, nevertheless, there seems to be no second probability for Ren. If he serves his full sentence, he will probably be in his late 80s by the point he’s launched.

CNN’s James Griffiths, Nectar Gan and Ben Westcott contributed reporting.

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