Ren Zhiqiang: Chinese tycoon criticizes Xi Jinping for handling coronavirus jailed for 18 years

Ren Zhiqiang: Chinese tycoon criticizes Xi Jinping for handling coronavirus jailed for 18 years

Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate tycoon with close ties to senior Chinese officials, disappeared in March after allegedly writing an essay the same month, criticizing Xi’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. He was later charged with corruption-related offenses.

A Beijing court on Tuesday found Rehn guilty of multiple charges, including misappropriation of about $ 16.3 million (110.6 million yuan) in public funds, accepting bribes and abuse of power that resulted in a total loss of $ 17.2 million. (116.7 million yuan) for the state-owned property company he once headed.

Judges sentenced him to 18 years in prison and fined him $ 620,000 (4.2 million yuan). The court said he “voluntarily confessed to all his crimes” and “was willing to accept the court’s decision after recovering all his illegal profits”.

China’s judiciary has a conviction rate of about 99%, according to legal observers, and allegations of corruption are often used to hunt down Communist Party confidants who fall from the leadership.

Wren’s conviction and heavy sentence appear to have been designed to send a message to other members of the Chinese elite that any public criticism or violation of Xi will not be tolerated as Beijing continues to face the onslaught of the pandemic and faces strong international pressure from Washington and the rest.

“The cannon”

Born into the ruling Communist Party elite, the 69-year-old Wren had often talked about Chinese politics far more than is usually allowed in an authoritarian state.

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

In the essay published in March, widely attributed to Rehn, the author criticized the party’s crackdown on press freedom and intolerance of dissent. While the essay did not name Xi, it did refer sideways to the country’s top leader as a power-hungry “clown.”

“I did not see an emperor standing there showing off his ‘new clothes’, but a clown taking off his clothes and insisting on continuing to be emperor,” Rehn reportedly wrote about Hee’s address to 170,000 officials across the country. country in a mass teleconference measures to control the epidemic on 23 February.

The essay went on to accuse the Communist Party of putting its own interests above the security of the Chinese people to ensure its rule.

“Without media that represent the interests of the people by publishing the facts, people’s lives are being destroyed by both the virus and the great disease of the system,” Rehn was quoted as saying.

Shortly after the essay was published, Rehn disappeared and relatives feared he had been detained. Authorities confirmed it was Wren was investigated for corruption allegations in early April, and expelled the longtime member from the Communist Party in July, paving the way for his prosecution.

This is not the first time Rehn has left the Chinese leadership to speak.

In 2016, he was disciplined after a social media interrogation of Xi’s demands that the Chinese state media must remain fully loyal to the party. He was put on trial for a year for joining his party, and his hugely popular Weibo account, which resembles China’s Twitter platform, was shut down.

This time, however, there does not seem to be a second chance for Rehn. If he serves his full sentence, he will be in the late 1980s by the time he is released.

CNN’s James Griffiths, Nectar Gan and Ben Westcott contributed to the report.

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