New Delhi: A Chinese former real estate property executive, who had criticised President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, has gone ‘missing,’ several reports have stated. 69-year-old Ren Zhiqiang, a noted critic of the Chinese President, is, incidentally, a member of the country’s ruling Communist Party. Also Read - Where is Xi Jinping, Ask International Media Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Ren, a former top executive of the state-controlled Huayuan Real Estate Group, had referred to Xi as a ‘clown’ in an essay, which seems to have invited the state’s ire. He has been missing since March 12, his friends and family members said on Saturday. Also Read - Coronavirus Outbreak: Xi Jinping Dials US Counterpart Trump, Says China Capable Of Defeating Epidemic

The essay, which targeted a speech made by Xi on February 23, was shared by the now-missing former executive with several of his close contacts in recent week. The speech, which was teleconferenced to 1,70,000 party workers across the country, was described by Zhiqiang as having shown him that ‘It was not an emperor standing there exhibiting his new clothes, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on being an emperor.’

In his essay, he also wrote that there was a ‘crisis of governance’ within the party, adding that a lack of free press and speech had prevented the crisis from being tackled sooner, thus leading to a worsening of the situation.

This is not the first time that Ren, also known as ‘The Cannon’ for his frequent criticism of Xi, has had a run-in with the state. In 2016, he was put under probation from the party for a year for being publically critical of a government policy.

China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has witnessed more than 80,000 confirmed cases across the country, with 3,200 people dead.