The charges include graft, embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power as an employee of a state-owned enterprise, according to a notice issued by the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court.
According to China’s criminal law, Ren’s charges could lead to anywhere between a year in prison and the death penalty, which would usually be suspended for non-violent crimes. Accused parties in cases such as Ren’s are rarely acquitted.
Lawyers hired by Ren’s family had not been allowed to meet the 69-year-old tycoon as of Wednesday, according to a source close to his family, who confirmed they were aware of the trial.
The hearing comes just over a month after the completion of investigations by disciplinary officials of the Communist Party, of which Ren had been a member.
Ren had disappeared after being taken away from his sister’s home in Beijing by party officials in March. He was then handed over to prosecutors in Beijing in late July and expelled from the party.
Despite his membership, Ren was a long-standing critic of the party leadership, earning him the nickname Ren the Big Cannon.
His most recent article, circulating online since March, was critical of the authorities’ initial missteps in handling the coronavirus, Beijing’s attempts to promote its successes in containing the outbreak and President Xi Jinping’s expansion of power.
Although Ren did not mention Xi by name, he made references in his article to an “emperor” and a “clown” who personally directed China’s fight against Covid-19.
When Ren was expelled from the party in July, he was accused of having been at odds with its leadership on “issues of principles” and publishing articles counter to “the Four Cardinal Principles”, a reference to the Communist Party’s unchallenged leadership status.
Ren was born into a revolutionary family, and his father Ren Quansheng was a former vice-minister of commerce. With his family connections and wealth, Ren was considered influential among political and business elites.
Media reports and published memoirs have documented his friendships with senior Chinese officials, some of whom have contributed forewords to books he has published.
The arrest has triggered widespread discussion about the limits on political speech even for those in elite circles.
Cai Xia, a former professor with the Central Party School, was expelled from the party after penning an article in July in defence of Ren. Now in the United States, Cai called Ren “the firmest and the most outstanding member of a group dedicated to pushing forward constitutional democracy” in China.
She also lost her pension as a punishment for speeches deemed to have “serious political problems”, which the party school said violated the party’s political discipline.
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This article Tycoon who criticised China’s ‘emperor’ and ‘clown’ faces corruption trial first appeared on South China Morning Post