Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
One of the most vocal critics of the Chinese government, Sun Dawu, was recently sentenced to nearly two decades in prison for provoking trouble with the Chinese government itself. The billionaire was arrested earlier this year, and in China, he is famous for being a very outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party. His company employs about 9000 people, owns a farming operation across China, and works in poultry processing, pet food production, and other industries.
According to an official statement by the Chinese courts, Sun was found guilty of creating a crowd of people who had the intention of storming various state institutions, causing trouble, obstructing public services, disrupting operation and production, mining illegally, and absorbing public deposits, as well as agricultural land.
As a part of his sentence, the billionaire was also finеd nearly $500,000. He’s one of the rare Chinese people who have publicly accused the government of various matters, including attempting to cover up the African swine flu outbreak a couple of years ago, which ended up killing over 100 million pigs in China. During an interview with CNN back in 2019, the billionaire stated that the local officials ended up only retesting his pigs for the flu when he decided to start sharing pictures of the animals on social media.
Additionally, according to some local Chinese media, Sun was also connected to a land dispute with a farm that was owned by the local government. According to the news report, he stated that a large number of his employees got injured during a fight with police officers last year, after some of them tried to stop the local farm staff from tearing down one of Sun’s buildings.
Furthermore, according to a statement from the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), the billionaire was allegedly being put on trial in front of the Chinese government in an attempt to punish him for his public support of human rights. One of the members of the advocacy group stated that throughout the years, Sun had made plenty of great contributions to the lives of Chinese citizens, as well as improving the lives of people who lived in rural China. According to an advocate, Sun’s alleged support of people defending their own human rights was simply an extension of his interest in people who are on the margins of the Chinese economy.
The billionaire’s sentencing has come in the midst of an increased crackdown on a number of private Chinese enterprises, with Beijing trying to get more control over the country’s entrepreneurs. Towards the end of last year, the Chinese government released a set of guidelines for the country’s private sector, stating that the sector needed politically sensible people who could follow the instructions of the communist party.
Although these types of critical events don’t happen every day, companies as well as their business owners should be prepared to face any type of situation, especially those that have offices internationally. Business owners should be careful to follow the law of their countries, as well as the law of any country they visit, to avoid facing potentially negative situations or at worst, losing their companies completely. Having a PR crisis plan in place will help the company and navigating difficult situations like the one described above.
About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading crisis PR agency.