What Is Beijing Doing With Billionaires and Booksellers?
A Chinese billionaire has gone missing and may have been rounded up by the police.
Zhou Chengjian started his own small business when he was just 8 years old and then spent years dabbling in bricklaying, silver polishing, and tailoring before he opened Metersbonwe Group, which quickly became one of China’s top clothing brands.
Estimated to have some $4 billion in the bank, Zhou is one of China’s most famous home-grown billionaires.
And now he’s missing.
On Thursday, after Chinese media reported that Zhou had been arrested, Metersbonwe suspended its trading on Shenzhen’s stock exchange. Foreign Policy was unable to independently verify that he was indeed arrested.
But according to the Financial Times, the company said in a statement Thursday that it was unable to reach Zhou, prompting fears he was rounded up as part of the Communist Party’s anti-corruption initiative.
Last month, billionaire Guo Guangchang, who runs Fosun, which owns Club Med, also disappeared. He reappeared after four days, and his company said he had been assisting Chinese police with an investigation. Fosun claimed that the investigation had nothing to do with its businesses and that he was “assisting the judicial authorities with an investigation, but it is not because the company has problems.”
If Zhou has indeed been detained so police can investigate his conglomerate for corruption, he would be joining the ranks of dozens of other businessmen and government officials who have also been under intense scrutiny in recent months.
And it’s not only the country’s most wealthy who are being rounded up: Since October, five booksellers linked to Causeway Bay Books from Hong Kong have also disappeared. The bookstore, which is now closed, once sold books about Chinese government officials and the Chinese elite — books that likely irked the Communist Party.
The difference between the booksellers and the businessmen? None of the booksellers have turned back up — though at least one has contacted his family to say he is “assisting with investigations.”
Image credit: Chu Fuchao/ChinaFotoPress