China’s Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate magnate, has been suspended from the Communist Party for one year following his public criticism of President Xi Jingping’s push for the country’s media to toe the party line.
The sanction against Ren Zhiqiang, who had a huge social media following, is an unexpectedly light punishment for his outspoken views, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In a statement on Monday, the party committee in Beijing’s Xicheng District said Ren is being put on probation for publishing “erroneous views” on social media that contradict the party’s core principles and policies and thereby constitute a “serious violation of party political discipline”, according to the newspaper.
Many official publications had called for Ren’s expulsion in February, when he challenged Xi’s demands for loyalty from the media, the report said.
The country’s internet watchdog had earlier punished Ren by shutting down his Weibo account, which had attracted more than 37 million followers before its closure.
Messages in support of Ren were also deleted from social media sites, including those who defended his right as a party member to voice his opinion.
But the light penalty slapped on Ren could assuage concerns over a recent crackdown on contrarian views, the Journal said.
The party leadership “wants to foster a sense of unity within the party, and doesn’t want internal contradictions to spill out into the open”, well-known China watcher and academic Willy Lam was quoted as saying.
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