The Chinese businessman who criticized the way Xi Jinping dealt with the Coronavirus has been sentenced to 18 years in prison

The Chinese businessman who criticized the way Xi Jinping dealt with the Coronavirus has been sentenced to 18 years in prison
A court said, Tuesday, that a Chinese billionaire who criticized President Xi Jinping's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, was jailed for 18 years on corruption charges.

Ren Qiqiang, a retired real estate mogul with close ties to top Chinese officials, disappeared in March after writing a scathing article that month criticizing Xi's response to the coronavirus epidemic. He was later charged with corruption.

On Tuesday, a Beijing court found Ren guilty of multiple counts, including embezzlement of about $ 16.3 million (110.6 million yuan) of public funds, accepting bribes, and misuse of power that caused losses totaling $ 17.2 million (116.7 million yuan) to the state. Owned by a real estate company he once headed.

The judges sentenced him to 18 years in prison and a fine of 620,000 dollars (4.2 million yuan). The court said that he "voluntarily confessed to all his crimes" and "was willing to accept the court's ruling after all his unlawful gains were recovered."

The conviction rate in China's court system is around 99%, according to legal observers, and corruption charges are often used to go after Communist Party insiders who interfere with the leadership.

Rin’s conviction and heavy sentencing seem aimed at sending a message to other members of the Chinese elite that any public criticism or challenge to Xi will not be tolerated, as Beijing continues to deal with the fallout from the epidemic and faces intense international pressure from Washington and others.

The cannon

Born into the ruling elite of the Communist Party, the 69-year-old has often been outspoken about Chinese politics, much more than what is usually permitted in an authoritarian state.

His frankness earned him the nickname "The Cannon" on Chinese social media.

In an article published in March, widely attributed to Rennes, the author criticized the party's campaign against freedom of the press and intolerance of dissent. While the article did not mention Xi by name, it indirectly referred to the country's supreme leader as a power-hungry "clown".

`` I didn't see an emperor standing there displaying his 'new clothes', but a clown stripped him of his clothes and insisted on continuing to be an emperor, '' he alleged, Rin wrote about Xi's speech to 170,000 officials across the country in a group video conference on measures to control the epidemic in February 23.

The article went on to accuse the Communist Party of placing its interests above the safety of the Chinese people, to secure their rule.

Ren allegedly wrote: "Without media representing the interests of the people by spreading the actual facts, people's lives are destroyed by both the virus and the main disease of the system."

Shortly after the article was published on the Internet, Rin disappeared, and his relatives feared that he had been arrested. Authorities confirmed that Rin was under investigation on corruption charges in early April, and the veteran member was expelled from the Communist Party in July, paving the way for his criminal prosecution.

This is not the first time that Rain has clashed with the Chinese leadership for speaking his mind.

Via social media, Xi demands that Chinese state media remain completely loyal to the Party. He was placed on probation for a year due to his party membership and his popular account on Weibo, the China Twitter-like platform, was closed.

This time, however, there appears to be no second chance for Rain. If he served his sentence in full, he would be in his late eighties by the time of his release.

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