China reveals charges against outspoken businessman Sun Dawu

Beijing, China Published: Jul 28, 2021, 03:21 PM(IST)

Sun Dawu in one of his warehouses in Bao Ding, China, April 16, 2019. Dawu, a rural tycoon who has been a thorn in the Communist Party’s side, was detained in November as the party moved to silence critics and keep the private sector in line. (Na Zhou/The Photograph:( The New York Times )

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Sun, who has been held in the northern province of Hebei since November, faces charges of illegal fundraising and obstructing public service, among other offenses. He was formally arrested Wednesday, according to an arrest notice provided Saturday by one of his lawyers.

Sun Dawu, an outspoken rural businessman who has been a thorn in the side of China’s ruling Communist Party, has been formally arrested on a number of charges, months after being taken into detention.

Sun, who has been held in the northern province of Hebei since November, faces charges of illegal fundraising and obstructing public service, among other offenses. He was formally arrested Wednesday, according to an arrest notice provided Saturday by one of his lawyers.

The arrest of Sun — a vocal critic of the Communist Party’s top leader, Xi Jinping, and his crackdown on civil society — comes amid broader efforts by Xi to muzzle business leaders and bring China’s private sector to heel.

Beijing has punished a number of high-profile tycoons recently. Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate mogul who had called Xi a clown, was given an 18-year prison sentence last year. After Jack Ma, China’s most famous business leader, criticized Chinese regulators in October, his e-commerce empire Alibaba and financial technology giant Ant Group became targets, and Ma has since kept an uncharacteristically low profile.

Authorities have said little about Sun’s alleged offenses. He and 24 other people were detained in November amid a land dispute between his company and a state-owned farm. At the time, police said only that Sun, 66, and others were being held on suspicion of “provocation, disrupting production and operation and other illegal crimes.”

Authorities in Gaobeidian, the city in Hebei where Sun is being held in a detention center, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sun, a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army, worked at China’s state-owned Agricultural Bank of China before starting his own business, called Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group, which now employs thousands of people.

Sun also provided venues for conferences held by liberal and reform-minded groups. He maintained friendships with dissidents long after they became politically toxic. When human rights lawyers were arrested, he offered to pay for their defense.

Nobel Peace laureate and human rights advocate Liu Xiaobo, who died in detention in 2017, once said that Sun posed a “tremendous challenge for the current system” because he had both courage and the resources to push for change.

“The government,” Liu wrote, “will definitely go after him with murky laws.”

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