These days, it doesn’t take much for someone to go missing in China, especially if you’re recognized in the business world.
A recent spate of disappearances occurring in China, involving bosses of some of the country’s top industries, has many questioning whether some kind of conspiracy may be at work.
The latest among the incidents involving vanishing businessmen in China revolves around Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International, which BBC news describes as “one of China’s most prominent asset management firms.” The company issued a statement late last week, stating that its shares have been suspended in the wake of Guangchang’s disappearance.
Fosun International isn’t the only company that has been affected by the purported “vanishing bosses” problem. In recent weeks, Hong Kong’s Guotai company has seen shares in its stocks falling in the aftermath of an announcement about its chief executive disappearing. Citic Securities, perhaps China’s very largest brokerage, has similarly lost two of its prominent investment bankers in recent weeks.
So the question on many people’s minds, in China and abroad, is where have they gone?
Guo Guangchang’s disappearance is notable among the rest, especially since the Fosun chairman had often likened himself to being an eastern counterpart to America’s Warren Buffett. His company had also recently made a number of acquisitions, the BBC reports. Some have speculated that this may have something to do with the disappearance, although it isn’t the only theory about the rash of missing Chinese executives.
Earlier in 2015, Beijing had undergone a number of high-profile investigations into businesses—particularly brokerages—which the Chinese government had believed were seeking to profit from severe volatility in the Chinese stock market. As the financial sector had been no stranger to questionable ethics, some assert that the government is merely closing its grip around those who might take liberties with the financial system.
Many attribute the disappearances to what is known as “Shuanggui”, a process involving a detention system enacted by China’s ruling party pertaining to one of its members, variously called “shuangzhi” if the detainee is a non-party member. President Xi Jinping had instituted the policy as an anti-corruption tactic throughout his campaign.
Bloomberg Business reports that shilian, the Chinese term meaning “lost contact”, has “become a euphemism in China for the party holding executives and officials for questioning or arrest, often indefinitely and at an undisclosed location. That practice has long been criticized by human rights activists who say the lack of transparency and accountability opens the door to abuses such as torture.”
But the disappearances in China’s business sector aren’t the only incidents that are getting attention in the country. In November, it was reported that four individuals associated with the politically-driven Causeways Bookstore, a Chinese independent supplier of “gossipy paperbacks” which often criticize the Chinese ruling party, had also vanished. Those associated with the missing employees were convinced that the disappearances had been due to similar detentions.
With the politically-fueled intolerance for corruption and, apparently, criticism just as well, it is with little doubt that the disappearances that have occurred in China have less to do with the kinds of bizarre vanishing acts that occasionally occur in the realms of speculative nonfiction and conspiracy literature. These incidents, if anything, highlight the kinds of problems the Chinese people have long dealt with—and still face today—in a country whose leaders are intolerant of opinions that differ from their own positions and authority.