Is the Chinese billionaire still alive?
Ren Zhiqiang is a Chinese former real estate tycoon , the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and a blogger on Sina Weibo with more than 37 million followers. Nicknamed "Big Cannon Ren", he is known for his outspoken criticism of the Party. He disappeared on 12 March 2020 after criticizing Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping over the handling of China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic .
He has been placed under investigation, Beijing authorities said in a brief statement Tuesday.
In 2016, he openly challenged Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping's view that government media should toe the Party line. After Xi made an inspection tour of CCTV on 19 February 2016 during which journalists displayed a banner reading "CCTV's surname is the Party. We are absolutely loyal. Please inspect us", Ren posted on Weibo: "When does the people’s government turn into the party’s government? [Are the media] funded by party membership dues? Don’t waste taxpayers’ money on things that do not provide them with services. The tweet was subsequently deleted, but on 22 February 2016 state-affiliated media accused Ren of advocating the overthrow of the Communist Party. On 28 February, Ren's weibo accounts were blocked by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), for "spreading illegal information", cutting Ren off from an estimated 37 million web followers. A day later, the Xicheng District CPC Committee, where Ren's party membership is registered, vowed to punish him under party rules.
On 2 May 2016, Ren was placed on a one-year probation within party.
The statement did not give any other details about the allegations against Ren.
In February he wrote an essay about a speech Xi Jinping concerning the coronavirus pandemic, in which he described that he "saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his 'new clothes,' but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor" . He said that the lack of free press and freedom of speech had delayed the response, causing the situation to worsen.
Tuesday's announcement was the first official acknowledgment that Ren was being held by the authorities.
He did not mention Xi by name, he indirectly referred to the top leader as a power-hungry "clown."
Ren Zhiqiang went on to accuse the Communist Party of putting its own interests above the safety of the Chinese people, to secure its rule. "Without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people's lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system," he said.