China’s top internet regulator closed the social media accounts of an influential retired property developer who criticized President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten control over state-run media.
Sites including Sina Corp.’s Weibo and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s QQ were told to shut down accounts held by Ren Zhiqiang for spreading “illegal information” and having a “negative impact”, Bloomberg News reported, citing a statement issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China on Sunday.
Ren, the former chairman of Huayuan Property Co., is known for airing outspoken views to his more than 37 million Weibo followers. He didn’t reply to a text message seeking comment.
Ren is a close friend of the Communist Party’s discipline chief Wang Qishan. He told Bloomberg in an interview last year that the two make frequent phone calls and meet a few times every year.
Ren stepped down as chairman of Huayuan Property in 2014 but remains chairman of Beijing Huayuan Haoli Investment Co.
The development comes days after Xi toured top media outlets in Beijing and issued orders that they “reflect the will” of the party and “preserve the authority of the party”.
Shortly after Xi’s Feb. 19 media tour, Ren published a post on his Weibo account criticizing the president’s assertion that the state media serve the party, instead of the taxpayers who fund its budget.
“When does the people’s government turn into the party’s government?” he said. The posts were deleted.
The following Monday, a news site affiliated with Beijing’s municipal party committee published a commentary accusing Ren of spreading “anti-Communist Party” thought.
The retired developer represented capitalist forces trying to promote Western values and topple the party, the commentary on the site Qianlong said.
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