Ren Zhiqiang called Xi Jinping a ‘clown’ and got 18 years in prison

Domestic News

After an essay critical of Chinese leader Xi Jinping circulated online, its author — Party member and former real estate executive Ren Zhiqiang — has been sentenced to 18 years behind bars on corruption charges.

ren zhiqiang
Ren Zhiqiang in 2018. Reuters/Oriental Images.

In March, real estate tycoon Rèn Zhìqiáng 任志强 went missing after an essay he wrote circulated online. Ren is a well-connected former Party member whose father was a Communist revolutionary, but his essay was critical of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and his government’s handling of COVID-19, going so far as to call Xi a “clown.”

What does the harsh sentence mean?

In August, Cài Xiá 蔡霞, also a member of the Red aristocracy, was expelled from the Party after critical remarks she made about Xi Jinping were circulated online. This month, publisher Gěng Xiāonán 耿瀟男 and her husband were detained for their support of Tsinghua University professor and Xi critic Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, who himself has been dismissed from his job and is the target of harassment.

The message to China’s elites is clear: No matter who you are or how well connected you might be to China’s Communist Party historical leadership, don’t mess with Xi Jinping.