Real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang goes missing after calling Xi a ‘clown’

Outspoken property tycoon Rèn Zhìqiáng 任志强 is the latest critic to write a scathing essay about how the repressive governing style of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis, and to be silenced. The New York Times says that after he called Xi a power-hungry “clown,” Ren has gone missing.

Outspoken property tycoon Rén Zhìqiáng 任志强 is the latest critic to write a scathing essay about how the repressive governing style of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis, and to be silenced. The New York Times says (porous paywall) that after he called Xi a power-hungry “clown,” Ren has gone missing. China Digital Times has a translation of excerpts from Ren’s now-censored essay.

Ren’s habit of speaking his mind about hot political topics earned him the nickname “The Cannon” a decade ago during his Weibo blogging days, but after his criticism of Xi Jinping’s exhortation for political loyalty from all media in 2016, Ren’s Weibo account was banned.

Ordinary people are also facing a new wave of censorship: “Online enforcers are dragging in hundreds for questioning as an assault on online speech continues,” the New York Times reports. “They are a sign how Beijing has given censors a more punitive role.”

For a recap of coronavirus-related censorship so far in the epidemic, see previous SupChina Access summaries: China to investigate ‘issues’ related to Li Wenliang’s death and China’s COVID-19 response: ‘dilatory at best, willfully negligent at worst’.

See also in the New York Times: As China cracks down on coronavirus coverage, journalists fight back (porous paywall).

More COVID-19 updates from China:

“Workers are gradually getting back to their jobs, stranded Hubei residents are going home and at last there is some relief for medical staff on the front line,” the SCMP reports. A separate SCMP article notes that 60% of small firms are back to work, and “95% of large businesses were back up and running, including in Hubei Province” as of March 13.

“International travelers landing in Beijing will be quarantined for 14 days at their own expense, authorities in the Chinese capital announced on Sunday,” per the SCMP.

Lying about your COVID-19 status will be punished: New guidelines from top legal and security bodies said that people “would face punishment if they are found to have lied about having Covid-19 symptoms or interfere with tests for the virus and its symptoms,” Caixin reports. The city of Tangshan also announced that it “will not provide free coronavirus-related medical treatment to people arriving from abroad who lie about their travel histories or contact with confirmed patients,” according to Sixth Tone.

—Lucas Niewenhuis