China hands 18-year jail term to Xi critic in corruption case

The former chairman of a state-owned real estate company who publicly criticized President ’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Tuesday on corruption charges, a court announced. disappeared from public view in March after publishing an essay online that accused Xi of mishandling the outbreak.

China sentenced an influential former property executive who once referred to President Xi Jinping as a "clown" to 18 years in prison for graft, a court said on Tuesday.

Ren Zhiqiang, the former chairman of Huayuan, a state-owned real estate group, was also fined 4.2 million yuan ($619,003), Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court said on its website.

The court found Ren guilty of embezzling and misappropriating a total of 111 million yuan and taking and receiving 1.25 million yuan of bribery, according to a notice on the judgment made on Tuesday.

Ren also abused his position which led to state-owned companies suffering a loss of 117 million yuan while he profited 19.41 million yuan, the notice said.

Ren had paid back all monies unlawfully gained, "voluntarily confessed to all charges", accepted the sentence and will not appeal, the notice said.

Ren was detained in March after referring to Xi as a clown over a speech he made in February about government efforts to battle the coronavirus.

In an essay, which does not mention Xi by name, Ren said after studying the speech he "saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his 'new clothes,' but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor," according to a version posted by China Digital Times, a U.S.-based website.

Beijing's municipal anti-corruption watchdog later said he was under investigation for a "serious disciplinary violation".

's ruling Communist Party ousted Ren in July. A Beijing district in July accused him of using official funds on golf expenses, using office and residential spaces provided for free by businessmen, and unlawfully earning large profits.

During Xi's tenure, China has clamped down on dissent and launched an aggressive campaign against corruption.

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