Beijing [China], April 25 (ANI): As China continues to impose severe crackdowns on dissent and critics in the country, Sun Dawu, an outspoken rural businessman, has been formally arrested on a number of charges, months after being taken into detention.
According to The New York Times report on Saturday, Sun -- who has been held in the northern province of Hebei since November -- faces charges of illegal fund-raising and obstructing public service, among other offences. He was formally arrested on Wednesday, as per an arrest notice provided on 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".
The New York Times further reported that 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, criticised Chinese regulators in October, his e-commerce empire Alibaba and fintech giant Ant Group became targets, and Ma has since kept an uncharacteristically low profile.
Sun and 24 other people were detained in November amid a land dispute between his company and a state-owned farm. At the time, the police said only that Sun, 66, and others were being held on suspicion of "provocation, disrupting production and operation and other illegal crimes," according to police notice.
NYT further reported that 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 had been arrested before, in 2003, after defying the government. Then, a group of lawyers, academics and journalists successfully campaigned for his release. But under Xi's rule, criticism of China's leadership and support for liberal causes carries higher stakes, and there has been no such wave of public support this time.
The 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. (ANI)