A prominent Chinese billionaire has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, the latest in a string of punishments against outspoken corporate bosses.
Sun Dawu runs one of the country’s largest private agricultural businesses in the northern province of Hebei.
Sun, 67, has in the past spoken out about human rights and politically sensitive topics.
He was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a charge often used against activists.
Other charges against him include illegally occupying farmland, assembling a crowd to attack state agencies and obstructing government workers from performing their duties. He was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($478,697; £343,227).
Sun’s company is among China’s biggest, with businesses ranging from meat processing and pet food to schools and hospitals.
He was reportedly detained last year, along with 20 relatives and business associates, over a land dispute with a government-run farm.
At the time, he said dozens of his employees were injured in an incident with police related to the dispute, according to an AFP report.
Sun is said to be close to some prominent Chinese political dissidents and has in the past criticised the government’s rural policies.
He was one of the few people to openly accuse the government of covering up an African swine flu outbreak, which affected his farms in 2019, and later devastated much of the country’s industry.
He also was sentenced to prison in 2003, for “illegal fundraising” but the case was overturned after an outpouring of support from activists and the public.
Sun reportedly denied many of the 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.
China has been cracking down on businesses and entrepreneurs in the country. Major technology companies including Alibaba, Didi and Tencent are being investigated for a range of regulatory issues.
Original Title: Outspoken billionaire Sun Dawu jailed for 18 years in China
Who is Sun Dawu and why he is punished by the CCP government?
Sun Dawu (born June 1954) is a Chinese billionaire. He is the owner of Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group.
After criticizing the Chinese government, he was arrested in late April 2021 and charged with illegal mining and “seeking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
After graduating from junior high school, Sun Dawu spent time in Linfen, Shanxi in the 82nd Division of the 28th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army and the Agricultural Bank of Xushui County. These two experiences made him discover that agriculture and animal husbandry can develop and operate. In 1985, he founded Dawu Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Group Co., Ltd. and served as chairman of the board. He started his business with 1,000 chickens and 50 pigs. During his tenure as chairman, Sun Dawu was awarded the honor of No. 1 Chicken Raising Scholar in Hebei Province in June 1996.
In 1995, Dawu Group had become one of China’s top 500 private companies, and Sun Dawu was also elected as a deputy to the Baoding Municipal People’s Congress . In August 1996, he was elected as the chairman of Baoding Poultry and Egg Industry Federation. In 2001, in addition to the chairman of Dawu Group, Sun Dawu also served as the principal of Dawu School; in October 2002, he was hired as a senior researcher by the Institute of Farmer Issues of China Agricultural University.
In 2005, Sun Dawu retired from his post as Chairman, becoming head of of the Supervisory Board of Dawu Group.
In April 2003, Dawu Group posted on its website three articles that were critical of the Chinese Goverment, the group was subsequently ordered to remove the articles, close the website for 6 months, and were fined 15,000 yuan.
In May 2003, Dawu was arrested after illegally raising 180 million yuan. The local court later sentenced Sun Dawu to three years’ imprisonment, four years of probation, and a fine of 100,000 yuan for illegally using public funds. Dawu Group was also fined 300,000 yuan.
In July 2021, Dawu was sentenced to 18 years in prison, having been found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Other charges levied against him included illegally occupying farmland, assembling a crowd to attack state agencies and obstructing government workers from performing their duties. He was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($478,697). Dawu was reportedly detained the previous year, along with 20 relatives and business associates over a land dispute with a government-run farm.