Crackdowns on businessmen continue in China amid health and economic crisis

The unprecedented health and economic crises have crippled governance in China but the crackdowns appear to continue to happen. The recent case of billionaire tech banker Bao Fan going missing suggests so. China has a history of billionaires, politicians, academicians, and celebrities getting disappeared following disagreements with the ruling communist party regimes. These cases are often seen as ‘state-sanctioned’ abductions.[1]Even the richest man in China Jack Ma had to bear the brunt for just speaking about flaws in the financial regulatory system. Ma was missing for over three months. Experts believe the Communist Party of China (CCP) is afraid of a potential threat to its rule if private businessmen grow stronger.

Chinese President Xi Jinping began crackdowns in the name of ending corruption, which is often regarded as a mode of suppression. And now it is being linked with Bao Fan’s disappearance. Chinese authorities were found regularly resorting to forced abductions to curtail dissent and demands for basic rights. It is rife across China, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. And big, influential names are no exception. There are many known cases of big businessmen going missing or abducted or imprisoned. While the use of such suppression tactics by the communist party regimes is not new to China, there has been a surge in Xi Jinping’s rule.

Xi is known for handling dissent or even slight criticisms with an iron fist. Alibaba’s Jack Ma is a popular, household name in China, and he is seen in high regard. Yet, he had to suffer from the ruthless government crackdown for seeking reforms in the county’s financial system.[2] Xi’s government began an anti-trust investigation against his company, curtailed its expansion, and subsequently imposed a heavy penalty.[3],[4],[5] China analyst Christina Boutrup said Ma failed to anticipate the repercussions when he criticised the financial system. “That day he apparently crossed the invisible red line for what can be said and done in Xi Jinping’s China,” she said. While Ma reappeared in public life after three months but chose not to be seen in public. Ma now has shifted to Tokyo with his family, possibly, to avoid imprisonment by the Xi government.[6]

Experts believe Xi, by targeting Ma, sent a clear message to the business fraternity not to cross the red line. “There are [Communist] party committees there to remind the companies… that the party ultimately has power, even over powerful individuals like Jack Ma,” said Samantha Hoffman, who is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.[7]Angering Xi cost a businessman named Xiao Jianhua his fortune and 13 years imprisonment.[8]Jianhua has had contacts with Xi’s political opponents.[9] Moreover, he spoke about Xi’s wealth to foreign newspapers, explaining how he helped Xi’s family divest their asset.[10]This led to the abrupt abduction of Jianhua, prosecution on unknown charges, and now he is in jail.

Guo Guangchang, who was called China’s Warren Buffett, too could not escape Xi’s ire. He went missing in December 2015.[11]He was said to be detained by Chinese police. The very next month, another businessman Zhou Chengjian went missing.[12]While the reasons could not be known, the crackdown on the reputed, popular billionaires instill in the business community fear about the Xi-led communist party government.[13]Those who dared to speak out were subjected to harsh treatment. Ren Zhiqiang is a classic example. The real estate mogul had gone missing and now serving 18 years jail term for criticising the Xi-led government over the mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.[14]“Cracking down on Ren Zhiqiang, using economic crimes to punish him, is a warning to others — killing one to warn a hundred,” said Cai Xia, a Chinese dissident, who once taught at the Central Party School.[15]

Yang Zezhu, Mike Poon Ho Man, Mao Xiaofeng, Sun Dawu, Zhang Wei Yang, and Yim Fung are some of the big names are the victims of disappearance, arrests, jail terms or worse, thanks to the crackdowns by the Xi regime.  [16],[17],[18] Analysts believe Xi is concerned about possible political threats to the rule of the communist party if great wealth is concentrated in the hands of private businessmen. “Under Xi, and especially in the last few years, the CCP has made a regular practice of arresting such people and stripping them of their assets,” said Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.[19] End.

























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