The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma once famously said that Among the richest men in China, very few have good endings

This comes true as Chinese billionaire and top tech investment banker Bao Fan went missing on 17th February. However, this is not the first time an influential person in China disappeared, as it has become a recurring event under the Xi Jinping government – Several industrialists, bankers, celebrities, activists and human rights lawyers have been found curiously “missing” especially after their criticism of the government. These disappearances which are always disguised under the garb of ‘crackdown through an anti-corruption probe’ interesting occur only on those who have been publicly critical of the government. 

Who is Bao Fan?

bao fan


Bao was the CEO and founder of the investment firm China Renaissance. He founded the firm in 2005 after working with Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. The company is a major player in the tech-investment sector in the country. It has acted as a supervisor of IPOs of several domestic internet giants like and has also facilitated the merger between the top ride-hailing startups Didi and Kuaidi Dache. China Renaissance went public in 2018 and currently stands at ninth in China’s equity capital market. 

Why China’s Billionaires Keep Disappearing?

The firm was becoming too big for the government’s liking. 

According to Desmond Shum, a former Chinese tycoon, Bao may have been a target because of his insider knowledge of such deals. Mergers of big companies often involve political as well as business connections. As of now, it is unclear if this is an abduction by the authorities or a disappearance in self-preservation. But due to this incident, the tech sector is in complete mayhem. The company’s stock dropped by 50% and later rested at 30%.

This incident bears an uncanny resemblance  to Ant Group CEO, Jack Ma’s disappearance!

Jack Ma, one of China’s richest and most influential people, disappeared in October of last year. After the success of Alibaba, the company entered into several sectors in the Chinese market including finance. Under the company Ant Group, Alipay became the biggest fintech company in China. On 5th November 2022, Ant group was going to be public on the Chinese stock exchange for 35B$ becoming the biggest IPO in the world. The world was looking forward for this…

On 24th October Jack Ma made the worst mistake of is life – he dared to criticized the financial regulatory policies of the Xi government, saying Chinese banks operate with a pawnshop mentality, due to their collateral-heavy loan mandatories. The result was as predicted – The CCP government suddenly changed China’s regulatory policy seven days before the Ant Group IPO, preventing the company from going public. The firm went under investigation for not abiding by anti-monopoly laws. And while all this was happening, Jack Ma was no where to be found!

The suspicion of disappearance became strong when Jack didn’t attend a business reality show finale, which he had created himself. Nobody had seen him since late October and his social media handles were also inactive. Alibaba’s stock went down by 17% in the month of December. However, after five months he was spotted in Melbourne while trying to lay low.

Missing Billionaires in china – CCP’s Other High Profile Victims

Real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, in 2019 wrote a critical piece on Chinese governance, calling Xi Jinping as a ‘naked clown’. Such maverick statements landed him in hot waters. His dealings went under investigation and he in self-preservation went underground. Later he was found by Chinese authorities and sentenced to 18 years of jail.

Billionaire businesswoman Whitney Duan vanished in Beijing in 2017 without a trace and wasn’t heard from for 4 years until her ex-husband, tycoon Desmond Shum, was about to publish a book on corruption in China. It happened after she released information with The New York Times in the course of a 2012 investigation that revealed numerous relatives of the then-prime minister Wen Jiabao acquired enormous wealth while he was a politician and had assets worth at least $2.7 billion. Even though she insisted she had no business dealings with the prime minister, Duan was tied into the controversy. Shum claimed to Time that he had not been able to contact Duan for four years following her abduction. He fled the nation and hasn’t been back since his ex-wife vanished.

Xiao Jianhua a Canadian-Chinese billionaire asset manager abducted from the Four-Season hotel in Hong Kong in 2017. His firm was fined 8B$ and he was sentenced to 13 years, for corruption and embezzlement. Later all of his wealth was seized by the authorities. The Hong Kong police denies the abduction accusation but refused to release the CCTV footage of the hotel lobby. Canadian counterparts were also denied access to the trial of his case hearing.

In September 2018, Meng Hongwei, the first Chinese head of Interpol, disappeared while returning to China from France. He was supposed to serve as head of Interpol until 2020, but according to the organization, he tendered his resignation a few days after going missing in China. Later, the CCP stated that Hongwei was jailed on suspicion of accepting bribes. The Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court issued a two million yuan fine to him. The court statement also ordered that he would not appeal against the verdict. Meng received a 13-and-a-half-year prison term in January 2020 for taking bribes.

Another noteworthy celebrity who inexplicably vanished from view for four months in 2018 was the internationally renowned Chinese actress Fan Bingbing. The actress, who had starred in more than a dozen Chinese movies and the “X-Men” series, vanished between July and October 2018. According to reports, she was detained by provincial authorities as a result of a tax evasion investigation. However, it is believed that her disappearance was due to her defiance of in participating the Xi government’s propaganda. After reappearing, in a surprising statement, she thanked the authorities for “vanishing” her. “It may be a trough I encountered in my life or in my work, but this trough is actually a good thing,” she told the New York Times. “It has made me calm down and think seriously about what I want to do in my future life.”

In August 2021, after she was reportedly banned from social media by the Beijing authorities, Zhao Wei, another Chinese actress, billionaire and businesswoman, vanished, and her whereabouts became unknown. Chaohua, a hashtag used by Zhao’s followers to exchange information about her on Weibo, was also banned. The actress was banned from well-known streaming services. Reports state that it was part of an effort by Beijing to target the pop-culture industry for what it sees as “unhealthy influences for young people”. She was targeted for this crackdown because of several reasons. Her political stance was questioned in 2016 because of her directorial No Other Love, which included a Japanese actor. An agency owned by Zhao represented actor Zhang Zhehan, who was blacklisted after an old selfie he took at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine (a sensitive political touch point in China) in 2018 emerged online. In 2001 Zhao came under scrutiny when she wore a dress that resembled Japan’s imperial Rising Sun flag during a fashion shoot in New York.

Reason Behind CCP’s “Party Controls All” Mandate

These incidents show the extreme insecurity of the CCP and how far a dictator regime could go to stay in power. However, in recent times, the people of China showed extreme resilience and fought against government crackdowns like the ‘Zero Covid policy’. Protest in the street and on social media overwhelms the Xi administration, seeding the hope of a better future for the people in China. 

But it remains to see which way the tide will sway – will the CCP’s endeavours to “control all” lead to more disappearances and increased surveillance? Or, will resilience conquer this authoritarian regime? It would be wise for the CCP and its leader Xi Jinping to think honestly about how they want history to remember them.

“Even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”

– Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear