A wealthy Chinese businessman was sentenced to prison after allegedly criticizing General Secretary Xi Jinping’s handling of the CCP Virus (coronavirus) pandemic.

Retired real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, 69, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for embezzling $16.3 million in public funds, accepting bribes, and abuse of power when he supposedly bled the company he once owned of $17.2 million, CCN reported on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Zhiqiang “voluntarily confessed all of his crimes” and “was willing to accept the court’s verdict after all of his illegal gains were recovered,” the court’s judges said. 

Corruption charges are often used to target Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) officials who object to the leadership. China’s court system has a conviction rate of around 99% and has been criticized in the past for conducting unfair trials, CNN reported, citing legal experts. 

Zhiqiang disppapeared in March after he allegedly wrote an essay lashing out at the CCP’s response to the pandemic and its crackdown on press freedom and dissent. The essay did not mentioned Xi’s name but did call him a “clown.”

“I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown who stripped off his clothes and insisted on continuing being an emperor,” Zhiqiang allegedly wrote of Xi.

“Without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system,” he added. 

The CCP faces intense scrutiny over its handling of the deadly virus that originated in Wuhan, China. A Chinese virologist who worked for the Hong Kong public health service and later escaped to the United States, recently revealed that the virus was made in a laboratory in Wuhan and genetically modified to be transmitted to humans.

The intelligence community in the United States in April reportedly sent a report to the Trump administration, stating that CCP has underreported the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, according to Bloomberg. 

President Trump, who repeatedly called out Beijing for its botched response to the epidemic, called on the United Nations on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to hold the CCP accountable for the global spread of the virus, which has now infected 31 million people worldwide and killed more than 965,000.

“While the Chinese government [CCP] banned the movement of people domestically, it let the Chinese go abroad, taking the virus with them to 188 countries around the world and creating an unprecedented pandemic that has wreaked havoc,” President Trump said during the first virtual U.N. General Assembly. 

President Trump also condemned the World Health Organization, to which the president has cut funding from the United States, for its role in fueling the outbreak globally. 

“The Chinese government [CCP] and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human to human transmission. Later they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease,” he added.