A Chinese billionaire who dared to speak out against the government has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for ‘provoking trouble’

Chinese pig farmer Sun Dawu posing at a feed warehouse in Hebei, outside Beijing
Sun Dawu. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images
  • Sun Dawu has supported rights activists and embarrassed officials during a swine flu outbreak.
  • He was sentenced to 18 years on Wednesday, with charges including “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
  • China’s government has for years targeted dissidents in a nationwide crackdown.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sun Dawu, a Chinese billionaire pig farmer, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in a case described by human-rights activists as “a blatant attempt to punish Sun for his support of human rights defenders.”

Sun, the founder of the agricultural giant Dawu Group, was charged on Wednesday with multiple crimes including “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a charge commonly issued against individuals who are critical of China’s government.

The full list of charges was “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, [and] illegal absorption of public deposits.”

Sun was arrested earlier this year after 300 police officers raided his offices and detained him and 28 others, according to the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

The arrest came a year after police clashed with Dawu Group staff who were trying to stop employees from a state-run farm from demolishing one of their buildings, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders said last July that authorities had targeted Sun in “apparent retaliation for his association with rights advocates.”

The group said Sun had previously supported the work of the civil-rights activist Xu Zhiyong, who was arrested last year, as well as other human-rights activists and lawyers, even amid a nationwide crackdown on lawyers since 2015.

He also embarrassed Chinese officials last year when he posted photos of dead pigs at his farm during a swine flu outbreak, the AP reported.

He said that authorities had failed to report the presence of the disease in the area, and the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the disease had been found in the area two days later, the AP reported.