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Chinese tycoon who criticized Xi Jinping’s handling of coronavirus imprisoned for 18 years

Beijing (CNN Business)A Chinese billionaire who slammed President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been put behind bars for 18 years on corruption charges, a court specified Tuesday.Ren Zhiqiang

, a retired real-estate mogul with close ties to senior Chinese authorities, disappeared in March after he apparently penned a scathing essay that month knocking Xi’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. He was later on charged with corruption-related offenses.

Ren Zhiqiang, a former real estate tycoon and outspoken government critic.

Ren Zhiqiang, a former real estate tycoon and outspoken government critic.

Ren Zhiqiang, a previous property mogul and outspoken government critic.On Tuesday, a court in Beijing discovered Ren guilty on many charges, including embezzling some $16.3 million( 110.6 million yuan )in public funds, accepting kickbacks, and abuse of power that set off losses amounting to $17.2 million (116.7 million yuan) for the state-owned domestic or commercial residential or commercial property business that he when headed.Judges sentenced him to 18 years in prison and enforced a fine of $620,000(4.2 million yuan). The court stated he”willingly admitted all of his criminal activities”and”wished to accept the court’s verdict after all of his illegal gains were recuperated.”China’s court system has a conviction rate of around 99

%, according to legal observers, and corruption charges are regularly utilized to pursue Communist Party specialists who fall afoul of the leadership.Read More Ren’s conviction and heavy sentence appears designed to send a message to other members of the Chinese elite that any public criticism or defiance of Xi will not be endured, as Beijing continues to manage the fallout of the pandemic and deals with intense around the world pressure from Washington and others.’The Cannon’Born into the Communist Celebration’s judgment elite, the 69-year-old Ren had usually been outspoken on Chinese politics

, a lot more than is generally allowed the authoritarian state.His forthrightness earned him the label “The Cannon”on Chinese social media.In the essay published in March, widely credited to Ren, the author lashed out at the party’s crackdown on press freedom and intolerance of dissent. While the essay did not point out Xi by name,

it obliquely explained the country’s leading leader as a power-hungry”clown. “”I saw not an emperor standing there displaying his ‘brand-new clothes,’ however a clown who got rid of off his clothing and demanded continuing being an emperor,”Ren presumably composed of Xi’s address to 170,000 authorities throughout the country

at a mass video conference on epidemic control measures on February 23. The essay went on to implicate the Communist Party of putting its own interests above the security of the Chinese people, to protect its guideline.”Without a media representing the interests of the people by releasing the real facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged

by both the infection and the considerable illness of the system,” Ren apparently wrote.Soon after the essay was published online, Ren vanished, and family members feared he had been apprehended. Authorities confirmed Ren was being analyzed on corruption associated charges in early April, and expelled the long time member from the Communist Celebration in July, leading the way

for his criminal prosecution.This is not the very first time Ren contravened of the Chinese management for speaking his mind.In 2016, he was disciplined after questioning on social media Xi’s requirements that Chinese state media should stay definitely loyal to the celebration. He was placed on a year’s probation for his celebration membership and his hugely popular account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was shuttered.This time, nevertheless, there seems no 2nd possibility for Ren. If he serves his complete sentence, he will be

in his late 80s by the time he is released.CNN’s James Griffiths, Nectar Gan and Ben Westcott contributed reporting

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