Beijing, Sep 22 (efe-epa).- Real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, a critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his handling of the coronavirus crisis, was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 years in prison for several corruption-related offenses.
According to Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, Ren pleaded guilty to the charges and will not appeal his sentence, which also includes a fine of 4.2 million yuan ($619,003).
The court ruled that Ren took advantage of his position within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “to embezzle more than 110 million yuan in public funds, received more than 1.25 million yuan in bribes.”
The court also said he “abused his power and caused particularly heavy losses of more than 100 million yuan to a state-owned holding company” including HuaYuan Group, which he headed between 1993 and 2014, according to state-run Global Times.
In China, it is common for CCP members who are investigated or convicted of corruption offenses to publicly repent.
The non-profit China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) has reported that during the trial, Ren “rejected the lawyer hired by his family and remained silent in protest against the authorities’ handling of his case.”
Ren disappeared on Mar. 12 after posting an article in which he criticized the initial cover-up of the outbreak and the way the government has been trumpeting its handling of the epidemic as well as Xi’s consolidation of power.
Ren described Covid-19 as a “crisis of governance” within the CPC and said the lack of freedom of press and expression in the country further exacerbated the situation caused by the outbreak.
On Apr. 7, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s top anti-corruption body, announced that it had opened an investigation against the property tycoon.
It is not the first time that Ren has faced punishment for criticizing Xi.
He also faced disciplinary action from the party in 2016 for challenging the party’s policies and Xi’s vision in several Chinese social media posts. EFE-EPA