Sun was arrested in March this year. His company, Hebei Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group, owns farming operations in China and employs about 9,000 people in poultry processing, pet food production and other industries. He is also famous for being an outspoken critic of China’s ruling Communist Party.
Sun was found guilty of “gathering a crowd to storm state institutions, obstructing public service, picking quarrels and provoking troubles, disrupting production and operation, conducting coercive trade, illegal mining, illegal occupation of agricultural land, illegal absorption of public deposits,” the People’s Court of Gaobeidian said in a statement posted on its official WeChat account.
As part of his 18-year sentence, Dawu was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000).
“Sun Dawu has made extraordinary contributions to improving the life of Chinese citizens living in rural China. His support of rights defenders was an extension of his concern for the welfare of people on the margins of the Chinese economy,” said Ramona Li, senior researcher and advocate for CHRD, in a statement at the time. CHRD added Sun was arrested along with his wife and adult children.
Sun’s sentencing comes amid a growing crackdown on private enterprises in China, as Beijing attempts to pull into line the country’s free-wheeling entrepreneurs. In a set of guidelines put out in September 2020, the Communist Party said the private sector needed “politically sensible people” who would “firmly listen to the party.”
In an essay published in March 2020, which was widely attributed to Ren, the author referred to Xi obliquely as a power-hungry “clown.”
— CNN’s Beijing bureau and Reuters contributed to this article.