A prominent Chinese billionaire has been sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined nearly $500,000 after being found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in China, a charge frequently used against activists and dissidents, BBC News reported.
Billionaire pig farmer and agricultural mogul, Sun Dawu, was guilty of crimes including “gathering a crowd to attack state organs”, “obstructing government administration” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, statement from the court in Gaobeidian, near Beijing, shows.
Sun, 67, an outspoken supporter and friend of Chinese political dissidents, was arrested on November 11 along with more than 20 others including his wife, two sons, and daughters-in-law.
Groups including Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) say the prosecution is apparent retaliation for Sun’s long support and friendships with Chinese dissidents.
“When the government violates its own laws in order to silence those with the means to support commitments to social justice and official accountability, it profoundly weakens the vitality of China’s economy and its leaders’ promises to rule by law,” said Ramona Li, a senior researcher at CHRD, at the beginning of Sun’s trial this month.
According to China Change, an information outlet, at pre-trial Sun described himself as an “outstanding Communist party member”, and denied many of the accusations against him, including those related to misusing funds.
Sun admitted to making mistakes, including posting messages online and unspecified mistakes over the “land issue”.
“The way they’re investigating me now is making those close to us suffer and those who hate us rejoice. I wish to take the charges upon myself, even if they’re severe, in exchange for the release of others. We are people who have made contributions to society,” he said.
The case comes amid a wide-scale crackdown in recent months on private businesses and entrepreneurs in China. Major tech firms have been investigated and their executives questioned and ordered to downsize or been fined, including Jack Ma’s Ant Group and Alibaba.
In September last year, Ren Zhiqiang, a former real estate mogul who criticized Xi’s handling of the pandemic in an online essay, was also jailed for 18 years on corruption charges.