Ren Zhiqiang, a Chinese real estate mogul and social media star who recently publicly criticized leader Xi Jinping about his coronavirus response has vanished.
The New York Times reports:
In recent weeks, an essay by Mr. Ren began circulating among elite circles in China and abroad. In it, he blamed the government for silencing whistle-blowers and trying to conceal the outbreak, which began in the central city of Wuhan in December.
While he did not explicitly use Mr. Xi's name in the commentary, Mr. Ren left no doubt he was speaking about China's leader, repeatedly referencing Mr. Xi's speeches and actions.
"I see not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,' but a clown who stripped naked and insisted on continuing to be an emperor," he wrote.
In 2016, Ren was put on probation for a year for criticizing the regime. The Communist Party of China has monitored him closely ever since, deleting his social media accounts — where he had a large following — and forbidding him from leaving the country.
His current whereabouts are unknown.
"We're very worried about him," said Wang Ying, a retired entrepreneur and friend of Mr. Ren's. "I will continue to look for him."