An influential critic of the Chinese Communist party who went missing last month when he suggested that President Xi Jinping was a “clown” over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak is being investigated for “serious violations of discipline and the law”, Chinese anti-corruption authorities have said.
Ren Zhiqiang a retired property executive who remains a well-connected and vocal member of the ruling party went incommunicado last month after writing a critical essay about the outbreak. In mid-March, Ren’s friends told Reuters they had not been able to contact him, and they were “extremely anxious”.
Late on Tuesday, party officials said Ren was accused of violations that are widely used as a euphemism for corruption and graft. The short statement posted online said Ren was undergoing disciplinary review and supervision by the Beijing discipline inspection commission, the top anti-graft commission in the country.
Ren’s essay took aim at a speech Xi made on 23 February, and said it revealed a “crisis of governance” in the party. While it did not mention Xi by name, Ren reportedly wrote that he saw “not an emperor standing their exhibiting his ‘new clothes’, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor”.
“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,” a translated version of the essay said.
In 2016, Ren was put on probation for a year as punishment for his public criticism of government policy. His social media accounts, which had tens of millions of followers, were shut down.
The Chinese government’s early handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been internationally and domestically criticised, after efforts to hide information and punish health workers who sought to warn colleagues emerged.
Responding to Ren’s arrest, US Republican and chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Michael McCall accused Chinese authorities of “repression” and said it “must end now”.
“Under the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese citizens who speak out against the govt fear they will be detained or disappear as the doctors who first warned about coronavirus did,” he said on Twitter.
“Ren Zhiqiang is under investigation just for criticising their response to the virus.” (Source: The Guardian)