Play China’s political version of Monopoly and ‘go directly to jail’

Outspoked Ren Zhiqiang’s 18-year prison sentence for ‘corruption’ is a Beijing warning for mixing business with politics

In China’s political version of Monopoly, critics of President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party “go directly to jail.”

There is no appeal and there is no discussion, only dubious corruption charges.

Earlier this week, outspoken tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was sentenced to 18 years in prison for allegedly embezzling US$16.3 million (110.6 million yuan) in public funds, accepting bribes and abuse of power.

A notice on the Beijing No 2 Intermediate Court website said that the 69-year-old former chairman of state-owned property group Huayuan had returned “the money” after “voluntarily confessing to all charges.”

Xi a ‘clown’

Still, news of the decision came just six months after he called Xi a “clown” and branded the state-run media funded by taxpayers as CCP propaganda. Instead, he pointed out, it should  “serve the people.”

“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 wrote of Xi’s address to more than 150,00 officials across China at a mass video conference on Covid-19 control measures.

Ren Zhiqiang has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. Photo: Courtesy of Xinhua News Agency

“The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core,” a translated version of his online essay on China Digital Times said.

Shortly after the scathing attack in March on Xi’s initial bungling of the Covid-19 crisis, it was announced that Ren was being investigated for “suspected serious disciplinary violations.”

Criticism, it appears, had been his only crime and since the judiciary serves the Party, his fate was already sealed. For the record, convictions rates in China hover above 99%

‘Brutal oppression’

“The consequence under President Xi Jinping is China’s most pervasive and brutal oppression in decades. What modest opening had existed briefly in recent years for people to express themselves on matters of public concern has been decisively closed,” Kenneth Roth, an American lawyer and executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in a commentary entitled China’s Global Threat to Human Rights.

“Civic groups have been shut down. Independent journalism is no more. Online conversation has been curtailed and replaced with orchestrated sycophancy,” he said.

Against this backdrop of “brutal oppression” and the Ren case, a broader draconian policy is emerging for China’s corporate scions.

Put simply, keep your mouth shut when you play Beijing’s authoritarian version of Monopoly. If not, “go directly to jail.”