Ren Zhiqiang, real estate mogul and Xi Jinping critic, sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption

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Sept. 22 (UPI) — A Beijing court on Tuesday sentenced a Chinese real estate mogul who has spoken out against President Xi Jinping to 18 years in prison for corruption.

The Second Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing said in a statement that it found Ren Zhiqiang, the former chairman of the Beijing Huayan Group, of having used his position to embezzle public funds and accept bribes, netting himself more than $2.85 million.

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The court said that between 2003 and 2017, Ren, 69, embezzled more than $16 million in public funds and accepted more than $184,000 in bribes while causing state-owned holding companies to lose more than $17 million through the abuse of his power.

He was also fined more some $619,000, the Second Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing said.

“The court held that the defendant Ren Zhiqiang’s actions constituted corruption, bribery, misappropriation of public funds and state-owned companies personnel abuse of power and should be punished in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

The court said that Ren “voluntarily confessed” to all crimes, accepted the court’s judgment and did not file an appeal.

Ren was detained in March after penning a scathing essay against the government’s response to the coronavirus while criticizing Xi without mentioning him by name.

In the widely circulated essay, Ren condemned the government for endangering the public by attempting to cover up its initial outbreak of the coronavirus through silencing whistleblowers and chastised Xi as being a “clown” who has been stripped naked but insists “on continuing being emperor.”

The essay also accused the Chinese Communist Party of having “abandoned” the people when they needed the government most to protect them.

“The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core,” Ren wrote, according to a translation of the essay by China Digital Times. “Precisely this type of system is capable of a situation where only the ruler’s order is obeyed with no regard for the people.”

In April, authorities confirmed in a statement that the retired billionaire real estate developer was under investigation for corruption, and in July, he was handed over to prosecutors.

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