President Xi's intolerance for criticism is widely known to the outside world - and feared within China.
The Chinese internet was scrubbed of practically all references to the children's cartoon "Winnie the Pooh" because some Chinese dissidents mocked Xi over his alleged 'resemblance' to the character, even using it as a code word (for the record, they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam "piglet").
And in the latest example of the heavy handed punishments that await anybody who dares criticize the 'dear leader', a former Chinese property tycoon who openly mocked Beijing's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has just been sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges.
The sentence was handed down after Ren Zhiqiang, former chairman of the state-owned real estate group, disappeared in March after publishing an essay where he apparently called President Xi "a clown". It was published after Xi unveiled plans for combating the virus.
Of course, the official charges against Ren included embezzlement and accepting bribes, since Xi typically removes his detractors under the auspices of his anti-corruption drive.
The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court found 69-year-old Ren guilty of embezzlement, bribery, misuse of public funds and abuse of power at a state-owned business, according to a notice released on Tuesday by the court. A real-estate developer for most of his career, he was known as a "big cannon" for his outspokenness and even earned the nickname "China's Donald Trump."
The court accused Ren of embezzling $7.3 million in public money, and accused him of accepting bribes of more than $180,000, while misusing around $9 million. He also alleged abused his power and caused losses of more than $17 million at the state-owned enterprise, while he personally profited.