Daily Management Review

Tycoon’s Punishment in China Intended to Serve as a Warning to Communist Party’s Outspoken Members


Tycoon’s Punishment in China Intended to Serve as a Warning to Communist Party’s Outspoken Members
Urging other party members to learn from his example, a retired property developer who criticized President Xi Jinping’s state media clampdown is to be “seriously punished” by the Communist Party officials in Beijing.
The party committee in Beijing’s Xicheng district said in a statement posted Monday on its Weibo account that former Huayuan Property Co. Chairman Ren Zhiqiang "constantly issued illegal information and wrong opinions on the Internet, which caused a baneful influence and seriously damaged the image of the party."
Internet regulators ordered the closure of Ren’s social media accounts on Sunday. Ren has aired constant outspoken views to his more than 37 million Weibo followers before being barred. Ironically he is also a friend of party discipline chief Wang Qishan.
"As a Communist Party member, any comment that is not in line with the party’s policy and direction, no matter if published on the Internet or in the media, are not allowed by the party’s regulations," said the committee representing the district where Huayuan Property is located.
Ren stepped down as chairman of the state-owned enterprise in 2014. He didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment.
On February 19, Ren published a post where he criticized Xi’s demand for the state media to “preserve the authority of the party” as conflicting with their duty to the taxpayers who fund their budgets and the warning come after his comments were published.
Party officials from around the country who are gathering in Beijing this week for the National People’s Congress, the one time each year. The announcement of punishment of Ren is seen as a message to he party officials attending Beijing about getting accessible to the press.
Punishing more than 100 high-ranking officials for graft and jailing journalists and rights advocates, Xi has waged twin campaigns against official corruption and public dissent since taking control of the party in November 2012.
The party’s 88 million members "should not improperly discuss the central leadership’s policies and direction and destroy party unity," said a regulation issued by the Politburo in October.  
Days later the first of several cadres disciplined under the revised code of conduct was a state newspaper editor from China’s western province of Xinjiang. In January while taking the decision to expel former Beijing deputy party chief Lu Xiwen, the "improper discussion" clause was cited, along with corruption allegations.
Ren had so far been spared even while China has been cracking down on influential Web commentators for more than two years. Ren shared frequent phone calls with Wang, who is spearheading Xi’s signature anti-corruption campaign, and that the two met a few times a year, the former developer told Bloomberg News in an interview last year.
However what acted as he final nail in the coffin was Ren’s comments about Xi’s media policies. A commentary accusing Ren of spreading “anti-Communist Party” thought was published in the following Monday.
"For a person like Ren who loves to call leaders in the middle of the night, who gave him the courage to stand out to tear down the wall?" said the commentary on the site Qianlong and included this cryptic comment that appeared to reference Ren’s political connections.