By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Sun Dawu, 67, was found guilty of crimes including “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and illegally occupying farmland, a court said.
Thursday’s ruling was the latest in a series of punishments targeting corporate bosses criticizing China’s Communist leadership.
Sun runs one of the country’s largest private agricultural businesses in the northern province of Hebei. He employed 9,000 people in activities ranging from poultry processing and pet food to hospitals, schools, and resorts.
But Sun also condemned reported human rights abuses and was reportedly close to political dissidents. He was among very few people to openly question the government of covering up the extent of an African swine fever outbreak.
That fever infected one of his farms in 2019 and later devastated much of the country’s industry.
He had also been embroiled in a land dispute with a local government-owned farm and was reportedly detained with some 20 family members and employees last year.
Dawu had said dozens of its employees were injured in a fight with police after trying to stop the state farm staff from tearing down one of its buildings last year.
The People’s Court of Gaobeidian city in Hebei province said the incidents made clear that Sun was guilty of offenses, including assembling a crowd to attack state agencies.
He was also accused of obstructing government workers from performing their duties, sabotaging production and operations, and illegal mining.
Critics say that the main charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is often used by “China’s regime” to target opponents.
This wasn’t the first time Sun was targeted. In 2003 he was sentenced for “illegal fundraising,” but the case was overturned after an outcry from activists and the public.
Sun has denied most accusations against him in a pre-trial hearing, describing himself as an “outstanding Communist party member.”
He did, however, reportedly admit to “making mistakes,” including posting messages online.
“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.
Besides receiving a prison term, Sun was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($478,697)
Last year, former property executive Ren Zhiqiang was sentenced to 18 years in prison for graft amid an ongoing clampdown on dissent.
Ren had referred to Xi Jinping as “a clown” after a speech the Chinese president made about government efforts to battle the coronavirus.
In addition, major technology companies, including Alibaba, Didi, and Tencent, are also being investigated for alleged regulatory issues.
And in recent days, Chinese authorities have also been cracking down on online education firms forcing them to provide services without profits.
Under President Xi, authorities have increased efforts to align education to the Chinese Communist Party ideology. That policy also negatively impacted Christian education and minorities, including Christians.
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