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Hong Kong protesters call for release of missing booksellers
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Jan 10, 2016

Chinese apparel chief latest billionaire to vanish: company
Beijing, China (AFP) Jan 8, 2016 - The chairman of one of China's most prominent fashion firms, Metersbonwe, has disappeared, the company said, prompting media speculation Friday that he may have been caught up in the country's anti-corruption drive.

Metersbonwe could reach neither Zhou Chengjian, ranked China's 62nd richest man last year by wealth publisher Hurun, nor the secretary of the board, it said in a statement to the Shenzhen stock exchange, where it is listed.

Trading in its shares would remain suspended, it said on Friday, "to protect investors' interests".

Without citing a source, the Qianjiang Evening News said Zhou may have been detained in connection with an insider trading case.

The announcement came only weeks after the four-day disappearance of Guo Guangchang, dubbed "China's Warren Buffett" and the chairman of one of China's biggest private-sector conglomerates, Club Med owner Fosun.

Fosun said he was cooperating with judicial authorities as reports linked him to a corruption investigation.

Chinese authorities are targeting the financial sector as part of a sweeping anti-graft campaign following a stock market rout that rocked global markets over the summer.

Hurun estimated Zhou's net worth at $4.1 billion. Once a poor tailor, he built up Shanghai-based Metersbonwe into one of the best-known fashion brands in China.

The firm is one of the most prominent of several unusually named English-language brands in China that are largely unknown outside the country.

Like a homegrown H&M, the company specialises in inexpensive clothing for young people and has nearly 5,000 outlets and franchises across the country, according to its website.

The Metersbonwe name was created from Chinese characters intended to sound foreign to domestic consumers, reports say.

In recent years it has sought to build its brand internationally. Actor Shia LaBeouf wore a Metersbonwe t-shirt in the third Transformers film in 2011.

Thousands of protesters marched through central Hong Kong Sunday, demanding the release of five missing booksellers who are feared to have been detained by authorities in mainland China.

The five are from Hong Kong's Mighty Current publishing house, known for books critical of Beijing.

Their disappearance has fuelled fears that freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city are being eroded. The US State Department and European Union have expressed concern.

The latest to vanish is Lee Bo, 65, last seen in Hong Kong on December 30. Three others earlier went missing in southern China and one in Thailand.

Pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and some residents believe Lee was kidnapped in Hong Kong by mainland authorities. They accuse China of trampling on the "One Country, Two Systems" agreement under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return by Britain in 1997.

This is intended to preserve Hong Kong's freedoms and way of life for 50 years. Chinese law enforcers have no right to operate in the city.

"We demand the Chinese government immediately explain the situation of the five and release them," Richard Tsoi, an organiser of the march, told protesters through loudspeakers before the rally started at the city government's headquarters.

"No to political kidnap!" demonstrators shouted, holding up banners reading "Where are they?" as they marched towards China's representative office in Western district.

Organisers said 6,000 people took part while police put the number at 3,500.

The US State Department said Friday it was "disturbed" by the reports of disappearances, while the European Union described the lack of information as "extremely worrying".

The issue has sent shockwaves across Hong Kong as fears grow that Chinese control is tightening.

"We are here to march for freedom and security for the people of Hong Kong," lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters.

"This is a political kidnap... One Country, Two Systems has been damaged."

In 2014 tens of thousands of protesters brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for more than two months after Beijing imposed restrictions on planned democratic elections for the city's next leader.

But the protests failed to force any concessions from the authorities.


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Previous Report
EU: Hong Kong bookseller disappearances 'extremely worrying'
Brussels (AFP) Jan 7, 2016
The EU on Thursday called the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers "extremely worrying" and urged an investigation, amid concerns Chinese is tightening its grip over the former British colony. The missing men all worked for Mighty Current, known for books critical of Beijing which closely monitors and controls dissenting voices. "The continuing lack of information about the well-b ... read more

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