Sun Dawu, an influential billionaire critical of China’s government, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday after being found guilty of “provoking trouble and inciting fights”, Chinese authorities said.
The 67-year-old businessman runs one of the largest agricultural companies in the northern province of Hebei. He is also known for his focus on human rights and political issues.
According to the South China Morning Post, he has also been charged with illegal occupation of land, attacking state agencies and obstructing officials.
He is now facing a fine of 3.11 million yuan (about 400,000 euros). Sun was arrested last year along with 20 other family members and associates over a land dispute. Dozens of workers were injured in the incident.
The businessman has been one of the few figures to accuse the government of covering up the existence of an outbreak of African swine fever that hit the country’s farms in 2001 and then devastated much of China’s industry.
In 2003 he was convicted of “illegal financing”, although the case was overturned in the face of widespread public and activist support. Sun has denied many of the allegations against him and has described himself as a “great member of the Communist Party”.