A Loyal Chinese Critic Vanishes, in a Blow to the Nation’s Future

The sudden silence of Ren Zhiqiang, a vocal member of the Communist Party, signals a retreat from the principles that led China out of poverty.

The New York Times
Date: March 31, 2020
By: Li Yuan

Credit…Jialun Deng

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Weeks before Ren Zhiqiang disappeared, leading to fears among his friends and fans that he had been picked up by the Chinese authorities, the 69-year-old former property mogul locked himself up.

It happened at an exhibition he held in December to show off his wood sculptures, a late-life passion after retirement and rising censorship left him little else to do. He barred himself inside a small work studio, so that attendees could view him only through a small window or from the open roof.

It was performance art, Mr. Ren explained to his friends, to show his isolation after the government barred him from social media and giving speeches. When friends asked how the government might react, he smirked the way he usually did when challenging authority.

Now, Mr. Ren may have gone further than the current leadership will allow.

His friends say he vanished this month after writing an essay critical of the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The essay, which was shared widely within private internet message groups, never named Xi Jinping, China’s top leader. But it said the actions of a power-hungry “clown” and the Communist Party’s strict limits on free speech had exacerbated the epidemic. It declared that the party should “wake up from ignorance” and oust the leaders holding it back, just as it did with the leaders known as the “Gang of Four” in 1976, ending the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.    [FULL  STORY]

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