Former China exec missing after calling Xi a ‘clown’ over COVID-19 handling

An influential previous Chinese house government who referred to as President Xi Jinping a “clown” in excess of a speech he manufactured final month about the government’s endeavours to struggle the coronavirus has long gone lacking, a few of his buddies instructed Reuters.

Ren Zhiqiang, a member of China’s ruling Communist Social gathering and a previous top rated government of point out-controlled house developer Huayuan Serious Estate Team, has not been contactable because March 12, they claimed.

“A lot of of our buddies are hunting for him,” his shut buddy and businesswoman Wang Ying claimed in a statement to Reuters, describing them as remaining “really anxious”.

“Ren Zhiqiang is a public determine and his disappearance is greatly know. The institutions accountable for this have to have to give a fair and authorized explanation for this as shortly as probable,” she claimed.

Phone calls manufactured by Reuters to Ren’s cell cell phone went unanswered.

The Beijing law enforcement did not straight away respond to requests by cell phone and fax for comment on Sunday. China’s State Council Facts Business did not straight away respond to a faxed ask for for comment.

An essay Ren shared with people today he knew in modern weeks took purpose at a speech Xi manufactured on Feb. 23, which point out media noted was teleconferenced to 170,000 bash officers nationwide.

Copies of his essay ended up afterwards posted on the internet by other individuals.

In the essay, which does not mention Xi by title, Ren claimed soon after learning the speech he “noticed not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothing,’ but a clown stripped bare who insisted on continuing remaining emperor,” in accordance to a variation posted by China Electronic Instances, a U.S.-centered internet site.

He also claimed it disclosed a “disaster of governance” inside the bash, and that a deficiency of free press and speech experienced prevented the outbreak from remaining tackled sooner, resulting in the circumstance to worsen.

Ren’s disappearance comes as censorship in excess of how nearby media and on the internet users examine the epidemic has tightened in modern weeks.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late final calendar year, has infected more than eighty,000 people today in the nation, killing 3,199.

Ren, who received the nickname “Cannon Ren” for earlier critiques posted on social media, was set on probation from the bash for a calendar year in 2016 as element of a punishment for publicly criticising authorities coverage.

That calendar year, the authorities purchased platforms these as the Twitter-like Weibo to shut down Ren’s social media accounts, which at the time experienced more than thirty million on the internet followers, saying he experienced been “spreading unlawful information”.

Beijing has framed the struggle versus coronavirus as a “People’s War” led by Xi.

Although the draconian actions to battle the virus, including the lockdown of the town of Wuhan, have confirmed helpful at that contains it even as the illness spreads promptly in other nations, China has faced criticism for suppressing information in the outbreak’s early days.