China on Tuesday sentenced a real estate tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, a critic of President Xi Jinping, to 18 years in prison for graft.
The Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court found Mr Zhiqiang guilty of “corruption, bribery, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power by personnel of a state-owned firm.”
Mr Zhiqiang , 69, a former Communist Party member and chairman of Huayuan Properties, had been friends with party elites, including Vice President Wang Qishan, China’s second-most powerful leader.
He was a former employer of Liu He, now Beijing’s top negotiator in the trade war with the U.S.
Mr Zhiqiang was expelled from the party in July after being accused of “colluding with his children to accumulate wealth without restraint.”
Mr Zhiqiang , his son and assistant disappeared earlier in the year, after he wrote an essay critical of Beijing’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Although his essay didn’t name Mr Xi directly, it talked about a power-hungry “clown” “determined to play emperor.”
He had previously criticised the party in social media posts.
His punishment suggests that the space for criticism of China’s top leadership has all but closed, as Beijing recently clamped down on academics critical of the party.
The court said Mr Zhiqiang confessed to his crimes and accepted the sentence.