Kidnapped boss

Guangdong billionaire held hostage in his home


He Xiangjian: Midea’s founder

In a shocking attack last year, Hong Kong actor Simon Yam was stabbed during a promotional event held by a property development firm. A popular rumour had it that the assailant ran a small firm that was going under because of late payment by the company concerned (see WiC462).

A few years earlier Wahaha’s Zong Qinghou, one of China’s richest men before the internet tycoons took over in the wealth rankings, was stabbed outside his home. Again the speculation was that the attacker was a small business owner in a financial dispute with the beverage heavyweight (see WiC210).

So when news broke this week that Midea Group’s billionaire founder He Xiangjian had been held hostage in his own home, the Chinese internet was soon buzzing about the reasons for the raid.

According to CBN, a local newspaper, police in Shunde received a report on Sunday evening that a small group of intruders had broken into He’s villa in a luxury residential project developed by Midea.

The Midea boss seems to have been held hostage overnight, before confirmation came later that five suspects had been arrested at 5am on Monday.

“The victim, surnamed He, is safe,” the local police bureau said in a very brief statement, adding that the public security bureau of the Guangdong provincial government was paying “high attention to the case”.

Guangdong has been witness to high-profile kidnappings in the past. At least two Hong Kong tycoons were abducted in the 1990s, with the perpetrator – Big Spender, an infamous gangster – later executed for his part in the crimes by the Guangdong authorities.

Footage of last weekend’s case started to circulate online, showing a man being escorted away from He’s home. Securities Times also reported that the initial distress phone call had claimed the attackers were carrying explosives – a similar ploy to that used by the kidnap team that grabbed the elder son of Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing in 1996.

In the latest instance, the son of the 77 year-old He managed to creep out of the villa and swim across a neighbouring river to alert the police, TMT Post reported.

No one was injured during the incident, the local police said. However, Midea soon found itself having to deal with the fallout as netizens pushed a narrative that the perpetrators were embittered suppliers of the home appliance giant.

Midea was furious and denied the claims, threatening to take legal action against the source of the internet rumours

However, that speculation looks to have been debunked by a further statement from Shunde’s police. They clarified on Thursday that what had occurred was a “failed robbery”. The leader of the gang, a 35 year-old man surnamed Li, was described as a “compulsive gambler” who intended to make a “quick buck”. The idea of breaking into He’s home to extort money came to Li, the police said, after he went on a gambling binge that started late last year. Li brought in the other four and agreed to divide any illicit gains with them. One of the men detained owns a clothing store, another is a factory worker in Zhuhai, also in Guangdong, while the others are jobless. The police gave no other details.

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