A number of high-profile business magnates in China have disappeared in what is seen as a systematic government scheme to strengthen further its iron-grip on the country’s economic and political system.
While some of the billionaires went missing and reappeared later, the whereabouts of some remain scanty. Some have vanished only to resurface with a litany of corruption charges confronting them, and upon swift prosecution they are condemned to jail.
Here is a list of prominent Chinese billionaires who have gone missing in the last decade and the details surrounding their disappearances:
Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the then-richest person in China went missing in late 2020 after criticising the country’s financial regulators. Ma has not been seen in China for more than two years now and his whereabouts remain scanty, with reports claiming he has been sighted in Japan, Thailand and Australia in recent months. He has also not been charged with any crimes.
Following his disappearance, the planned mega-listing of shares in financial technology giant Ant Group was shelved. And despite donating almost $10bn (£8.4bn) to the ‘Common Prosperity’ fund.
Bao Fan, an accomplished technology dealmaker, disappeared last month. The founder of China Renaissance Holdings, went missing for days before his company announced that he was “co-operating in an investigation being carried out by certain authorities in the People’s Republic of China“. It is not known which government agency is carrying out the probe. The whereabouts of Mr Bao also remain shrouded in mystery.
Among his clients are internet giants Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu.
Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International, disappeared in December 2015. The conglomerate owns English Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers. He however later resurfaced with his company saying he had been assisting with investigations.
Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua disappeared in 2017. He was one of the richest people at the time. He was arrested in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. Last year he was imprisoned for corruption.
Real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang vanished in March 2020 after calling Mr Xi a “clown” over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. After a one-day trial in the same year, Mr Ren was sentenced to18 years in prison on corruption charges.
Why the disappearances?
The Chinese government maintains that it has stuck to the law when handling the country’s super-rich, warning that corruption of any form in any sector will be decisively dealt with
Analysts however State that China fears the growing influence of the techpreneurs who have benefited tremendously from the move by China to increasingly open up its economy. This opening up helped to create a swathe of multi-billionaires who, with their immense wealth, had the potential to wield considerable power.