Under Xi, the party’s dubious stance toward political or frankly active entrepreneurs has worsened. Wang Gongquan, a former venture capitalist who has funded more liberal political and social policies, was one of the first high-ranking individuals to be imprisoned after Xi took office. Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate tycoon, was sentenced to 18 years in prison last year after he repeatedly criticized Xi’s policies, including the government’s mishandling of the early days of the outbreak. coronavirus virus.
In private chat rooms and behind closed doors, some are asking what Beijing is sending to the private sector by arresting Mr. Sun. Straightforward and generous, in a sense, Mr. Sun is the role model of a civic entrepreneur that the party aims for. He built a town – Dawu City – around his corporate campus in rural Hebei province, complete with a hospital with 1,000 beds.
He once said: “My dream is to build a modern city in the countryside”.
Mr. Sun, 66, was born in Xushui, Hebei Province, about two hours south of Beijing. He joined the People’s Liberation Army after graduating from junior high school. He left the army eight years later and returned to his hometown to work at the Agricultural Bank of China.
A curious and restless mind, he studied law in college and took courses in Chinese literature in his spare time. In 1985, he quit banking and started his business with 1,000 chickens and 50 pigs. His company, Dawu Agriculture and Livestock Group, now employs about 9,000 people, many from neighboring villages.
As the business grew, Mr. Sun turned to independent intellectuals in Beijing. In the spring of 2003, he became a voice for the interests of farmers and entrepreneurs, giving a speech at top Chinese universities.
After upsetting the authorities, he was arrested for allegedly raising funds illegally. His new friends jumped in to protect him. Legal scholars argue that the law he is accused of violating was written in a way that gives the authorities full discretion to accuse unsubstantiated entrepreneurs.
Liu Xiaobo, human rights activist, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize and died in prison in 2017, explained that Sun “poses a huge challenge to the current system”. As an entrepreneur, Mr. Liu writes, Mr. Sun despises bribery, has the financial resources to act independently and has the courage to speak up and urge political reform.