Ren Zhiqiang

23 September 2020

Ren Zhiqiang was once in the inner circles of the Communist Party. He was formerly chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group. He has always been an outspoken person, especially in criticizing the party or the government. This earned him a nickname of “Big Cannon,”. Only his wealth and political connections shield him from harsh punishment so far. This time he overstepped the tolerance limit when criticized Xi Jinping’s handling of the pandemic and called him a clown. “This epidemic has revealed the fact that the Party and government officials only care about protecting their own interests, and the monarch only cares about protecting their interests and core position,” Ren wrote, without naming Xi.

in 2016, he repeatedly called for greater freedom of the press. In his memoir he wrote that he had been friends with vice-president and former anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan since they were teenagers.

He was jailed for 18 years on charges of corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. He was also fined $619,003, according to a statement from a Beijing Intermediate Court on Tuesday. The court found him guilty of embezzling and misappropriating a total of $16.3m and taking and receiving $184,000 in bribes, according to the judgement notice. The court also said that he enriched himself by $2.9 million by his actions which resulted in a loss of $17.2 million to the state. The court also said that he had “fully admitted to the facts of all the crimes and willingly accepted the court’s judgment.”

In July 2020, Beijing district court accused him of using official funds on golf expenses, using office and residential spaces provided for free by businessmen, and unlawfully earning large profits. He was expelled from the party in July.

His supporters and sympathizers said that this was punishment for his words, rather than for what he did. His supporters view this long prison term as a warning to those who criticize the party or Mr. Xi. The warning is especially for the “red offspring”, the children of party officials.

In another unrelated case, Cai Xia, who had taught democratic politics at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party before retiring who called President Xi Jinping a “mafia boss” and the ruling Communist Party a “political zombie” was disciplined and not jailed.

The school where she taught, rescinded her Communist Party membership and retirement benefits in August, for making remarks that “had serious political problems and damaged the country’s reputation”.

Political watchers, also pointed to comments she made in a recording leaked online in June arguing that replacing Xi as party chief would be the first step to saving the party from itself.

It was also said that, “If the Politburo Standing Committee has any sense of responsibility to the people, the country and the party, they should call for a meeting to replace Xi.”

Despite all these comments, she was not jailed.

Al Jazeera reported.