March 29, 2023

Why are Chinese billionaires disappearing? – Executive Digest

The disappearance of billionaires in China got a “new lease of life” last month after the case of Chinese businessman Bao Fan: the founder of China Renaissance Holdings — whose client list includes giants Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu — is considered a tycoon in the country’s technology sector .

Bao’s case followed a familiar pattern: He went missing for a few days, after which his company announced it was “cooperating with an investigation conducted by the authorities of the People’s Republic of China,” though without specifying which government body was conducting the investigation. , or even what it was about or the current location of Bao Fan.

He is not unique: his disappearance has followed several other Chinese businessmen in recent years, including Alibaba boss Jack Ma. Billionaires tend to get more media attention, but there have also been several less publicized cases of Chinese citizens missing after taking part in, for example, anti-government protests or human rights campaigns.

Bao’s disappearance has reinforced the view that this is one of the ways President Xi Jinping has used to guarantee his control over China’s economy and coincided with the announcement, at the National People’s Congress, of plans for the biggest overhaul in years China’s financial sector. regulation system.

Thus, a new regulatory body will be created to supervise most financial sectors, which will allow, according to the authorities, to fill the gaps in the current system, in which several bodies – instead of a single body – monitor different aspects of financial services .

In 2015, at least five executives are unavailable, including Guo Guangchang, chairman of the Fosun International group, best known in the West for owning Premier League club Wolverhampton. Guo disappeared in December 2015. His company later said it was cooperating with investigations.

Two years later, Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua, one of China’s richest men, was arrested in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. Arrested for corruption in 2022.

In March 2020, real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang disappeared after calling Xi a “clown” over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. That same year, in a one-day trial, Ren was sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption.

The billionaire who gained the most exposure is Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who was China’s richest man and disappeared in late 2020 after criticizing the country’s financial regulators. He has not been seen in China for over two years and has not been charged with any crime. Ma’s whereabouts are still unclear, although there have been reports that he has been seen in Japan, Australia and Thailand in recent months.

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