A real-estate tycoon who rebuked Chinese President Xi Jinping for the country’s response to Covid-19 pandemic has been sent to jail for 18 years on graft charges.

A court in Beijing on Tuesday found Ren Zhiqiang guilty on several charges, including embezzling public funds and accepting bribes, CNN reported.

This follows after Ren, who is a retired real-estate tycoon, had disappeared in March after he allegedly wrote an essay rebuking Xi’s COVID-19 response. Following his criticism, Ren was charged with corruption-related offences.

Besides sentencing to 18 years in prison, fines worth USD 620,000 (4.2 million yuan) were also imposed on the tycoon.

“I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown who stripped off his clothes and insisted on continuing being an emperor,” Ren allegedly wrote, as quoted by CNN.

The court in Beijing however has said Ren “voluntarily confessed all of his crimes” and “was willing to accept the court’s verdict after all of his illegal gains were recovered.”

In the essay, Zhiqiang further accused the Communist Party of putting its own interests above the Chinese people, in order to stay in power.

“China’s court system has a conviction rate of around 99 per cent, according to legal observers, and corruption charges are often used to go after Communist Party insiders who fall afoul of the leadership,” CNN said in its report.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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