The billionaire founder of Chinese fashion brand Metersbonwe has gone missing. The disappearance comes as a rising number of Chinese executives and financiers find themselves swept up in the government’s anti-corruption campaign.
Metersbonwe Group said it was investigating reports in the Chinese media that its chairman, Zhou Chengjian, had been picked up by police, the Financial Times reported. The company — a well-known fashion label — suspended trading in its shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange Thursday amid the search.
Metersbonwe was unable to contact Zhou by Thursday night, local time, or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke, the company said in a statement. Zhou was China’s 65th richest man last year, with a fortune of 26.5 billion yuan ($4.01 billion), according to the 2010 Hurun Rich List.
The news followed a tumultuous day on China's stock markets. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 7.3 percent in early Thursday trading while the Shenzhen Composite Index for China's smaller exchange plunged 8.3 percent. China's new "circuit-breaker" system halted trading after 29 minutes, prompting Chinese regulators to shut down the mechanism.
Companies in mainland China and Hong Kong have seen a spate of high-profile disappearances in recent years under Chinese President Xi Jinping. The government ramped up its investigation into financial corruption after the stock market crash last summer, which saw stocks lose around $4 trillion in value.
Hong Kong’s top financial official this week urged companies to disclose quickly any information if their chairmen or principal officers go missing or fall out of contact. His statement followed a question from Christopher Cheung, a Hong Kong legislator, about whether regulators required listed companies to publish announcements about disappearances within a certain amount of time, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported Wednesday.
Cheung posed the question after the Hong Kong-listed arm of Guotai Junan Securities Co., a major Chinese securities firm, reported its chairman Yim Fung as missing in a Nov. 23 filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company said in a Dec. 23 filing Yim reappeared in late December after “assisting” mainland authorities in an investigation, the South China Morning Post reported.