28 “disappeared” investors are still missing in China, nine days after they were arrested

China's Transition
China's Transition

Over two dozen Chinese investors who lost money in Fanya Metal Exchange are still missing, nine days after they were arrested ahead of a nationwide police crackdown on a planned protest in Beijing.

None of the 28 protest organizers who were arrested by police during an evening meeting in Beijing on Oct. 25 have made any contact with friends or family members, several investors told Quartz today (Nov. 3).

The organizers, who each represented different parts of the country, had planned a massive protest that thousands of other investors pledged to join at China’s top securities regulator the next day (Oct. 26). They planned to plead for government help to recover an estimated $6 billion invested in Fanya, a trading platform many now suspect is a fraud. Around 220,000 retail investors, many of them middle-aged and with families to support, put a substantial portion of their life savings into the exchange, which had government support and backing. Their money has been frozen since April.

One investor from Shanghai who did not want to be identified told Quartz investors are worried about the 28 organizers, but “there’s no way” they can do anything. She said Shanghai investors have been trying to contact their representative, but her mobile phone is shut off, no one is at her home, and her QQ messaging software account seems to have been taken over by someone else—though they are not sure if this is related to her disappearance.

Around 10,000 people signed up to participate in the Oct. 26 protest in Beijing, which coincided with a top Communist Party’s officials’ meeting to decide the government’s next five-year plan. Only a few dozen protesters actually showed after police rounded up hundreds of investors in Beijing hotels, intercepted them as they made their way to the capital, and threatened others at home visits before they left for the planned protest.

Most of the investors detained in Beijing on Oct. 25 were held overnight in Jiujingzhuang Relief Services Center, the city’s biggest detention hub, originally a shelter for homeless people. They were released on the following morning and took trains back to their hometowns, under local government supervision.

Still, the whereabouts of the missing 28 are unclear. Family members of seven received police notices that their relatives were held on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb public order,” which could carry a five-year jail term, but have since heard nothing else.

While Fanya investors have yet to get their money back, or barely any government acknowledgement of their plight, the situation may be prompting more oversight of other Chinese regional commodities trading exchanges that have long lacked strict regulations.

Seven crude oil and precious metals exchange could soon be “rectified,” Chinese media reported (link in Chinese) this week, citing unidentified sources. An unnamed person close to local regulators told 21st Century Business Herald (link in Chinese) that they’ve received instructions from the top regulator to investigate local exchanges. If the businesses violate criminal law, the unnamed person said, “the public security bureaus will also take action.”

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