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Monday, March 16, 2020

Social Media Star Missing After Calling Chinese President A ‘Clown’

Ren Zhiqiangm,   Xi Jinping

An influential Chinese property executive and social media star, who called President Xi Jinping a “clown” over a speech he made last month about the government’s efforts to battle the coronavirus has gone missing, three of his friends say.

Ren Zhiqiang, a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a former top executive of state-controlled property developer Huayuan Real Estate Group, has not been contactable since March 12, they said.

“Many of our friends are looking for him,” his close friend and businesswoman Wang Ying said in a statement to Reuters, describing them as being “extremely anxious”.

Ren Zhiqiangm

Ren has more than 37 million followers on Chinese social media app Weibo.

Calls made by Reuters to Ren’s mobile phone went unanswered.

The Beijing police did not immediately respond to requests by phone and fax for comment on Sunday. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

An essay Ren shared with people he knew in recent weeks took aim at a speech Xi made on February 23, which state media reported was teleconferenced to 170,000 party officials nationwide. Copies of his essay were later posted online by others.

 Xi Jinping

In the essay, which does not mention Xi by name, Ren said after studying the speech he “saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor,” according to a version posted by China Digital Times, a US-based website.

He also said it revealed a “crisis of governance” within the party, and that a lack of free press and speech had prevented the outbreak from being tackled sooner, causing the situation to worsen.

Ren Zhejiang

Ren’s disappearance comes as censorship over how local media and online users discuss the epidemic has tightened in recent weeks.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has infected more than 80,000 people in the country, killing 3199.

Ren was put on probation from the party for a year in 2016 as part of a punishment for publicly criticising government policy and his social media accounts were ordered shut down by the government.

[ By AAP / 7News ]

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