Outspoken China critic who called Xi a 'clown' being investigated by Communist Party's disciplinary arm

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Chinese tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, an outspoken coronavirus critic who has been missing since March 12, is being investigated by the Communist Party's disciplinary committee.

Ren, who has publicly taken on President Xi Jinping, one of China's most powerful leaders in modern history, will be investigated for "serious violations of law and discipline," the Communist Party's disciplinary arm announced Tuesday.

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A short statement released by the Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing, claimed that Ren -- a member of China's ruling Communist Party and a retired real estate executive -- was being investigated.

"Ren's fate will be determined by what I think is an intense struggle at the top of the Communist Party," foreign affairs expert Gordon Chang told Fox News. "If Xi Jinping prevails, we won't see Ren for a long time. If Xi's adversaries win, Ren will be China's next hero."

Friends of Ren said they had lost contact with him following an essay he shared in recent weeks that took aim at a speech Xi made on Feb. 23. Ren told friends that he "saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his 'new clothes,' but a clown stripped naked who insisted he continue being emperor."

CHINA - DECEMBER 12: Ren Zhiqiang, chairman of Beijing Huayuan Group, attends the Caijing Annual Conference 2009 in Beijing, China, on Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. The Caijing Annual Conference takes place from Dec. 12-13. (Photo by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

CHINA - DECEMBER 12: Ren Zhiqiang, chairman of Beijing Huayuan Group, attends the Caijing Annual Conference 2009 in Beijing, China, on Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. The Caijing Annual Conference takes place from Dec. 12-13. (Photo by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Ren, 69, has also gone on record to say China's state-run news media should serve the people of China and not the Communist Party, something Xi strongly disagrees with.

Ren's comments highlight the growing discontent and frustration over Xi's authoritarian rule.

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In 2016, Chinese Communist Party officials put Ren on a one-year probation after he criticized Xi's policies.

At the time, the Communist Party said Ren had "lost his party spirit."