Ren Zhiqiang, the Chinese real estate tycoon known for his direct criticism of state policies, may have gone one step too far when he decided to go after the Party-controlled media.
“When did the people’s government change into the Party’s government?” Ren said in a now-deleted post on Chinese social media. “Is their money the Party’s? … Don’t use taxpayers’ money for things that don’t provide them with services.”
Sometimes dubbed “the Donald Trump of China” for voicing otherwise politically unacceptable opinions, Ren is better known online as “the Cannon” by his 37 million Chinese fans. His name is censored from social media searches.
Ren’s comment, which came after major Party-controlled mouthpieces restated their absolute loyalty to the Party line on Feb. 19, drew commentary responses in Qianlong, a Party-sponsored journal.
One article, called “Who Gave Ren the Confidence to Oppose the Party?” accuses the tycoon of pursuing Western constitutionalism. It also warned of the political disaster that would supposedly come about if the media were not loyal to the Party, saying that the Soviet Union had fallen for this very reason.
The other article admonished Ren, himself a Party member, for not defending the Party’s interests and hinted that he was “creating disturbances”—a common charge made against those arrested for political crimes.
“Behavior that stirs up chaos will inevitably encounter the people’s scorn,” the article reads. “Attempts to provoke disturbances or stir up hate will encounter the people’s opposition. Netizens’ teaching him a lesson in Communism is the best proof.”
Aside from hundreds of thousands of police who patrol China’s cyberspace for politically incorrect content, the Chinese authorities also command legions of paid Internet users who create the illusion of popular agreement with its rule and policy.
On Feb. 22, Ren responded indirectly on social media by saying of state-controlled media, “The board of directors is entrusted by shareholders to manage and run a company. But the company belongs to the shareholders, it doesn’t belong to the board of directors. This is common knowledge!”
Previously, Ren called the state-run China Central Television “the dumbest pig on earth.” In another incident, an audience member at one his speeches became so enraged that he threw a shoe at Ren.