A Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced an influential former property executive and critic of President Xi Jinping to 18 years in prison for charges of corruption.
The court in Beijing found Ren Zhiqiang guilty of using his former posts to take bribes and embezzle public funds, as well as and abuse of power that caused losses totaling $17.2 million (116.7 million yuan) for the state-owned property company that he once led.
The 69-year-old was sentenced to 18 years in prison and imposed a fine of $620,000 (4.2 million yuan).
The court said Ren “voluntarily and truthfully confessed all his crimes,” and do not plan to appeal the court’s decision, but his case was done in secrecy, and the court’s decision was swift even by the standards of politically sensitive cases.
However, Ren’s supporters believed that the long sentence given to him serves as a punishment for his harsh comments against Xi.
“Cracking down on Ren Zhiqiang, using economic crimes to punish him, is a warning to others — killing one to warn a hundred,” said Cai Xia, a former instructor at the Central Party School that trains rising officials.
“It’s a warning to the whole party and especially to red offspring,” he added, referring to the children of party officials.
Ren went missing in March after writing a critical essay that month and strongly criticized Xi’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the essay did not mention Xi by name, Ren wrote that he saw “not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes’, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor.”
“The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core,” the translated essay states.