A retired real estate executive who criticized China’s President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party for their handling of the coronavirus has disappeared.
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The story: Ren Zhiqiang, a former top executive and member of China’s ruling Communist Party, has been missing since March 12. His friend told Reuters that they’ve been trying to reach him but to no avail.
“Many of our friends are looking for him,” businesswoman Wang Ying, who is a close friend of Ren, said in a statement, adding they’re “extremely anxious” about the situation. “Ren Zhiqiang is a public figure and his disappearance is widely known. The institutions responsible for this need to give a reasonable and legal explanation for this as soon as possible,” she added.
In detail: Ren has been a vocal critic of both the party and President Xi Jinping. Last month, he called Xi a “clown” in response to a speech he gave over the government’s effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Ren made the remark in an essay he sent to friends, which was then shared online. Ren said he “saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor,” referring to Xi’s Feb. 29 speech, according to a version posted by China Digital Times.
What it means: Foreign affairs expert Gordon Chang told Fox News that Ren’s disappearance might be a sign of inner disagreement in the Communist Party.
“When people speak out to criticize Xi Jinping, it means that there is a lack of fear because they know what can happen to them but either they don’t care or they feel so strongly they’ll do it anyway. When that occurs, that shows that the regime is starting to crack,” Chang said.
“If he thinks he can get away with it, it means he must have support at senior party levels, and if he has support at senior party levels, it means that there is disunity at the top of the party,” he explained.
Chang noted: “He is extraordinarily powerful. Anything can happen.”