A business tycoon who is an outspoken critic of China’s President Xi Jinping has been sentenced to 18 years in jail on charges of corruption.
Ren Zhiqiang was found “guilty of corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds” a Beijing court said according to Global Times.
Zhiqiang was also fined US$ 620,000.
Ren went missing in March this year shortly after writing an essay said to be critical of President Xi. Although it did not directly name President Xi, it was widely believed to be about him.
In his essay Ren was critical about Beijing’s handling of the virus outbreak, and came after a televised speech by President Xi.
Shortly after the essay was published, it was announced that Ren had been put under investigation for “suspected serious disciplinary violations”.
Beijing later announced that he had been expelled from the Communist Party.
The Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court said Ren had accepted bribes worth 1.25m and embezzled almost 50m yuan.
He is said to have “voluntarily” confessed to all charges and will not appeal against the decision.
The former chairman of the Hua Yuan Property Company was not merely a business tycoon. The son of a ministry official, he was also known to have close ties with senior party leaders and was in a position from which his criticisms of the party would be particularly potent.
Rights groups have consistently accused China of using corruption charges as a way to clamp down on dissent.