China has sent to jail business tycoon Ren Zhiqiang. On Tuesday, a court said that Zhiqiang faces corruption charges and will spend 18 years of imprisonment. Actually, many know the billionaire for criticizing President Xi Jinping’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Charges Against the Chinese Businessman
A Beijing court sentenced Ren Zhiqiang, a property tycoon who had denounced Xi Jinping, to 18 years in prison for corruption. The harsh punishment appeared to be aimed at deterring dissent.
He did not appeal when the court found that he received ill-gotten money. Particularly, the allegations against him include embezzlement of public funds amounting to 110 million yuan (around US$16 million) and accepting bribes, among others. According to reports, Ren obtained and abused his power while and after he served as an executive at a property development firm.
South China Morning Post quoted the court saying that Ren “has voluntarily confessed his crimes, admitted to all the accusations against him.”
Criticisms Against the Chinese Government
Ren had previously criticized the government openly on several occasions. Four years ago, he went to social media for his comment regarding President Xi’s request to the state media to remain loyal to the party. Later on, Ren underwent probation for his party membership. Even his Weibo account went shuttered, CNN Business reports.
Similarly, earlier this year, an essay circulated in March, which criticized the government’s response to the outbreak. The article was allegedly attributed to Ren. According to the letter, “I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown who stripped off his clothes and insisted on continuing being an emperor.”
Furthermore, the essay said that the outbreak “ravaged” people’s lives because of the lack of media representation.
Later that month, relatives said that Ren disappeared and he could likely face detention. The New York Times reported that in July, the Communist Party announced the expulsion of Ren and the probe against him. Ren also received accusations of failing to “stay in line with the party’s central authorities.”
Warning Against Critics?
Furthermore, the Times article quoted a Beijing sociologist who said that the sentence serves as “punishment” for Ren’s criticisms. Several outlets reported that Ren’s supporters see his imprisonment as a warning to those who will oppose the Chinese government.
SCMP further said that a lawyer from Beijing noted that usually, probe on corruption cases take four or five years. Meanwhile, it only took months for Ren’s case.
If Ren served all the years of his sentence, the businessman would be in his 80s at his release.