Bao Fan, Star Banker, Goes Missing in China

Bao Fan, a renowned investment banker in China, has disappeared and is unreachable, raising concerns that Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s business elite is continuing.

In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday, China Renaissance Holdings said that it has been unable to contact Mr. Bao, the company’s chairman and chief executive. China Renaissance said its board was “unaware” of any information that indicated his disappearance was tied to the company’s operations. The company’s share price plunged on the news, falling 28 percent on Friday.

The disappearance of Mr. Bao, a well-connected deal-maker known for his close ties to many of the country’s technology giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, seemed eerily familiar to many China watchers. Under Xi Jinping, China’s president, prominent executives and billionaire businessmen from the country’s private sector have been rounded up under the banner of anticorruption investigations.

Mr. Bao had worked at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley before starting Renaissance as China’s technology sector was coming into its own. He shares many of the characteristics of businessmen who have been targeted by Beijing: Western-educated, outspoken and wealthy. Under Mr. Xi, China’s once powerful and extremely wealthy private sector has been forced to show allegiance to the Communist Party.

After nearly three years of restrictive Covid measures, the government abruptly reversed its pandemic policy and shifted the focus to reviving China’s flagging economy. In recent months, the government has changed its tune and pledged to support businesses. But the disappearance of a prominent banker has dredged up concerns about the heavy hand of Beijing and whether there will be more crackdowns in finance, technology and real estate.

In 2015, one of China’s wealthiest men, Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International, a sprawling conglomerate, was detained under the auspices of an anticorruption campaign. He was released after a few days, and took on a lower profile than before.

Two years later, Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-born billionaire, was taken by the Chinese police from his apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. Last year, Mr. Xiao, a financial adviser who had forged deep ties with many of China’s top politicians, was sentenced to 13 years in prison after being charged with embezzlement and bribery.

Jack Ma, the high-profile co-founder of Alibaba Group, also vanished from public view for months starting in late 2020, after he criticized the country’s regulators for being too risk-averse in dealing with the country’s financial system.

According to Bloomberg, Cong Lin, China Renaissance’s former president, has been involved in a probe by authorities since September.