Ren is being investigated for alleged ‘serious violations of law and discipline’, according to a statement by the Commission for Discipline Inspection

An articled he wrote criticising the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak was widely shared online

Ren Zhiqiang, the former Chinese property tycoon and outspoken critic of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, is under investigation for alleged “serious violations of law and discipline”, the Communist Party’s disciplinary watchdog announced.

In a short statement released on Tuesday, the Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing said that Ren – a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a former top executive of state-controlled property developer Huayuan Real Estate Group – was under investigation. 

Friends say that they have lost contact with Ren, 69, since March 12 after an article he wrote criticising the way in which Chinese government responded to the coronavirus outbreak was widely shared online.

In the essay, which does not mention the top leadership by name, Ren was critical not only of the initial cover-up of the virus outbreak, but also of the way in which Beijing is now promoting its success in handling it. Additionally, he was critical of the growth of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal power.

Ren called the Covid-19 outbreak, which started in China and has caused more than 1.3 million infections and more than 76,000 deaths globally, a “crisis of governance” within the CCP. He also said that the lack of free press and speech had prevented the outbreak from being tackled sooner, causing the situation to worsen.

The announcement by the Beijing’s party disciplinary watchdog did not make direct reference to the article.

Ren is a longstanding critic of the Communist Party and a popular opinion leader on Weibo, China’s micro-blogging platform that is similar to Twitter. Besides being critical about the government’s efforts to control the property market, he has also regularly called for more freedom of expression and less government control of the media.

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