Chinese executive, who criticised Xi Jinping's handling of COVID-19, face graft charges
The former chairman of a state-owned real estate company, who publicly criticised President Xi Jinping's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party and will be prosecuted on corruption charges, the party announced Friday.
Ren Zhiqiang, who had become known for speaking up about censorship and other sensitive topics, disappeared from public view in March after publishing an essay online that accused Xi of mishandling the outbreak that began in December in the central city of Wuhan.
Ren, 69, is accused of corruption, embezzlement, taking bribes and abusing his position at a state-owned company, the Discipline Inspection Commission of Xicheng District in Beijing said on its website.
The former chairman and deputy party secretary of Huayuan Group was expelled from the ruling party and his case was turned over to prosecutors, the agency said. It gave no details of the offenses.
Xi, who became ruling party leader in 2012, has suppressed criticism, tightened censorship and cracked down on unofficial organisations. Dozens of journalists, labor and human rights activists and others have been imprisoned.
Criticism of the party's response to the coronavirus focused on its early efforts to conceal information and on propaganda portraying Xi and other leaders as rescuing the China from the disease.
Since taking over the helm of the party in 2012, Xi has shown himself entirely intolerant of any criticism and has cracked down heavily on free media and civil society, jailing scores of journalists, lawyers and non-governmental activists on labor and other issues.
Ren, 69, had an early military career and his parents were both former high officials in the Communist party, leading some to call him a princeling, an oft-used reference to the offspring of the founders of the People's Republic including Xi.
That status might have provided him with some immunity from prosecution, although he appears to have crossed a line by criticizing Xi's personal leadership, whether by name or implication.
Ren ran into trouble a few years ago, when state media reported he had been accused of violating party political discipline." His party membership was put on probation for one year, the reports said. He had an early spell of trouble in the mid-1980s.
The problems arose from what authorities said were wrong statements on internet platforms such as Sina Weibo, blogs and some public occasions.