Chinese Tycoon Sentenced to 18 Years Imprisonment for Criticizing President Xi Jinping

A court announced on Tuesday that Ren Zhiqiang, a billionaire tycoon was charged with corruption related offenses after it was discovered that he allegedly criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The court also disclosed that Ren was found guilty of  bribery, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power. It is believed that the heavy sentence imposed on Ren is designed to send a message to the members of China’s elite that any public criticism and defiance of President Xi will not be tolerated. According to a statement by the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court, Ren Zhiqiang was found guilty of charges including bribery, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power

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A Beijing court sentenced a prominent property tycoon to 18 years in prison for alleged corruption on Tuesday in a verdict that will finally silence one of President Xi Jinping’s most outspoken and fearless critics, reports.

Nicknamed “the cannon”, he spoke candidly about government regulation of the property industry and other public policy issues.

But the severity of the sentence is a sign of the party’s anger after he began to criticize Mr. Xi directly.

In early 2016, Ren castigated Mr. Xi on social media after the Chinese president said the primary function of government-funded state media should be to serve the party. His Weibo account, with almost 40m followers, was shut down and his party membership suspended for one year.

Earlier this year, however, Ren burst back into public view with a scathing and thinly disguised critique of Mr. Xi’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the president’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Ren was subsequently stripped of his party membership and detained by the party’s Discipline Inspection Commission.

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CNN: Ren’s conviction and heavy sentence appears designed to send a message to other members of the Chinese elite that any public criticism or defiance of Xi will not be tolerated

Screenshot from CNN

In a report by CNN, it states that Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate tycoon with close ties to senior Chinese officials, 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 in Beijing found Ren guilty on multiple charges, including embezzling some $16.3 million (110.6 million yuan) in public funds, accepting bribes, and abuse of power that caused losses totaling $17.2 million (116.7 million yuan) for the state-owned property company that he once headed.

Judges sentenced him to 18 years in prison and imposed a fine of $620,000 (4.2 million yuan). The court said he “voluntarily confessed all of his crimes” and “was willing to accept the court’s verdict after all of his illegal gains were recovered.”