A Chinese billionaire who criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been jailed for 18 years.
The court said Tuesday that retired real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was sentenced on corruption charges.
This comes after he disappeared in March after writing an essay criticizing Xi, in which he called him a power-hungry “clown” without addressing him by name.
“I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown who stripped off his clothes and insisted on continuing being an emperor,” Ren, 69, said.
“Without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, Ren was found guilty on multiple charges, including embezzling $16.3 million in public funds, accepting bribes, and abuse of power. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison and ordered to pay a $620,000 fine.
The court said he “voluntarily confessed to all of his crimes” and “was willing to accept the court’s verdict after all of his illegal gains were recovered,” according to CNN.
CNN also reports that his heavy sentence is meant to send a message to other Chinese elites who are thinking about publicly criticizing President Xi.