A critic who labelled Xi Jinping ‘clown’ for his handling of COVID-19 investigated for ‘serious violations’

DHARAMSALA, 9 April: An outspoken and influential critic of the Chinese Communist Party who labelled Xi Jinping a “clown” over his handling of the coronavirus epidemic has been placed under investigation by China.

Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate tycoon with close ties to senior Chinese officials, faces allegations of committing “serious violations” of the law and Communist Party regulations, a favoured euphemism for corruption, the CNN reported citing a brief statement released by the Chinese authorities.

The statement stopped short of disclosing any other details about the allegations against the Chinese billionaire, the report added.

Ren was reported to have disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after he published the essay that was fiercely critical of Xi’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

While his essay has been scrubbed from China’s internet that Beijing tightly censors and polices with an iron grip, its copies widely circulated outside China.

Ren says in the essay that the “epidemic has revealed the fact that the Party and government officials only care about protecting their own interests while accusing Beijing of concealing the initial outbreak of the COVID-19.

AFP quoted Yaqiu Wang,  China researcher at Human Rights Watch as saying in its report that the probe against Ren fitted a pattern of the Communist Party using charges such as disciplinary violations to silence its critics.

“It is quite clear that the Chinese government is punishing Ren for his speech critical of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government under the veneer of law. The government has a record of criminalising peaceful speech using bogus charges.”

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