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Chinese tycoon disappears after criticising Xi and top Communist officials for coronavirus response

EPA-EFE//YUN YUE
A February 2016 picture of Ren Zhiqiang, then president of a state-run real estate developer, speaking at a presser for his book on China's property market in Shanghai.

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A Chinese property tycoon has gone missing after criticising President Xi Jinping’s response to the coronavirus outbreak that emerged in the Wuhan region in December, US media reported.
Ren Zhiqiang, or “The Big Cannon”, a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a former top executive of the state-controlled property developer Huayuan Real Estate Group, has not been contactable since March 12, three of his friends told the media.
“Ren Zhiqiang is a public figure and his disappearance is widely known. The institutions responsible for this need to give a reasonable and legal explanation for this as soon as possible,” Ren’s close friend, businesswoman Wang Ying said.
Ren’s essay sharply criticised Xi’s dismissive and often contemptuous attitude about the threat of the coronavirus and the attempts by the upper echelons of the Communist Party to cover up the deadly seriousness of the outbreak in its early stages. Ren blamed the government for worsening the outbreak due to its strict restrictions on freedom of speech and for refusing to discuss a potential spread of the virus at a time when containment was far easier.
Though Ren does not mention Xi by name in his report, he does, however, wrote that after analysing one of Xi’s speeches that he saw, “not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes’, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing to be emperor”.
Ren was known to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to control the property market. In 2016, party officials put him on a year’s probation for denouncing Xi’s propaganda policies online. Ren had also been previously barred from leaving the country and forced to delete his social media accounts as a result of his outspoken criticism of Xi.
China’s secret police and the country’s State Council Information Office have refused to comment on Ren’s whereabouts.

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