A Chinese billionaire has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after being charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in China, according to reports.
Pig farming mogul Sun Dawu, a prominent figure in China, was also fined nearly $500,000 under the charge that has previously been used against activists and dissidents.
Around 20 family members and business associates were detained alongside Dawu, 67, over a dispute with a government-run farm, the BBC first reported.
Dawu is the latest high-profile corporate boss to have been imprisoned by Beijing, but his sentencing is on the higher end of the scale.
Fellow billionaire and media tycoon Jimmy Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this year for his role in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
Before his arrest, Dawu had publicly supported prominent human rights lawyers and dissidents by paying their legal costs, activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said.
Dawu had denied the allegations against him in pre-trial hearings but admitted that posting things online may have been a mistake.
“The way they’re investigating me now is making those close to us suffer and those who hate us rejoice,” Dawu said.
“I wish to take the charges upon myself, even if they’re severe, in exchange for the release of others. We are people who have made contributions to society.”