image

Xi Jinping

Outspoken Chinese tycoon comes under fire for attacking Xi Jinping’s lecture to the media

News site affiliated with state says former property mogul Ren Zhiqiang is trying to topple Communist Party and establish Western-style government

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 6:10pm

An outspoken tycoon has come under fire for his comments about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s exhortation to media last week that it must show absolute loyalty to the Communist Party.

Ren Zhiqiang, who stepped down from his Hua Yuan Property company in 2014, said on Weibo shortly after Xi toured Xinhua, People’s Daily and CCTV on Friday that the media should serve the people. Ren stressed that the news outfits were funded by taxpayers’ money, and so should serve the public, rather than the leadership.

READ MORE: China’s top party mouthpieces pledge ‘absolute loyalty’ as president makes rare visits to newsrooms

On Monday morning, a news site affiliated with the Beijing municipal party committee said Ren was spreading “anti-Communist Party” thought.

Ren represented capitalism that sought to topple the party’s rule and establish Western-style constitutionalism on the mainland, said the commentator on Qianlong.com.

Controlling the media through capital ownership was a crucial part of their plan, it said, adding that the tycoon, who is a party member, had “completely” lost his party spirit.

With more than 37 million followers, Ren is a popular figure on social media, where he is known as "Cannon" for his critical and often controversial comments about a host of issues, including housing and income inequality.

He has a reputation for being an unapologetic supporter of the market economy, arguing that poor people are poor because they couldn’t  or didn’t want to invest in property in the past.

READ MORE: Xi Jinping rallies party for propaganda war on internet

During his tour of the leading state media outlets, Xi said all news media run by the party must speak for the party’s will and protect its authority and unity.

“All news media run by the party bear the surname of ‘party’,” Xi said.

Ren addressed the president’s speech in two posts on his Weibo account. “When does the people’s government turn into the party’s government? [Are the media] funded by party membership dues? Don’t waste taxpayers’ money on things that do not not provide them with services.”

He also wrote: “Are there two opposite camps now? When all media have surnames and do not represent public interests, the people will be forgotten and abandoned!”

The posts have since been deleted.

Ren remains outspoken even after other Weibo celebrities, including real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi and venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu curtailed their activities online since a crackdown in 2013.