Zhou Chengjian: Billionaire businessman joins ranks of China's disappeared

Various financiers have also gone missing since last summer amid accusations by officials of stock market abuse

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The Independent Online

Another billionaire Chinese businessman has disappeared, signalling that Beijing’s crackdown on the private sector is rolling on despite the fresh stock market turmoil this week.

The clothing chain Metersbonwe suspended its shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange after admitting that it was unable to contact its founder and chairman Zhou Chengjian.

In a statement, the Shanghai-based company said it was halting trading “to protect investors’ interests”. 

Media reports in China speculated that he had been taken into custody as part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Mr Zhou, 50, is reckoned to be the country’s 62nd richest person, with an estimated $4.1bn (£2.8bn) fortune. A former tailor, Mr Zhou opened Metersbonwe’s first store in Wenzhou in 1995 and turned it into one of the country’s biggest clothing firms.

Last month Guo Guangchang, the well-known boss of the investment conglomerate Fosun, went missing temporarily. Mr Guo was later reported by his company to be assisting authorities with an unspecified investigation. 

Various financiers have also gone missing since last summer amid accusations by officials of stock market abuse.

The Chinese stock market closed up 2 per cent on Friday amid talk of large share purchases by state-controlled funds. However, the CSI 300 index of large Chinese companies still ended the week down 10 per cent after two sessions in which shares had to be suspended because the market  fell more than 7 per cent. 

 This week the Chinese stock market authorities were forced to suspend their newly installed “circuit breakers”, which had been supposed to dampen volatility but, in the view of many analysts, merely added to it.

Some Chinese media reports suggested that the reason for the presumed questioning of Mr Zhou was his association with fund manager Xu Xiang, who was arrested in November for insider trading.  They pointed out that Mr Xu’s company, Zexi Investment, made a $70m profit trading Metersbonwe’s shares last year.