Executive reportedly held over links to Bo Xilai
A top businessman from Dalian with close ties to Chongqing's embattled former Communist Party boss Bo Xilai failed to show up for an important economic forum in Hainan, prompting speculation that he has been detained.
Xu Ming, chairman of privately owned chemical firm Dalian Shide Group, had cancelled his planned trip to the island province to attend the annual Boao Forum for Asia, which opened yesterday, according to a Phoenix TV report.
The Beijing-based Economy and Nation Weekly magazine, affiliated with Xinhua, on Saturday quoted two separate unnamed sources as saying Xu, 41, had been placed under control by an unspecified department since the night of March 15 for alleged involvement in 'economic cases', a common euphemism for corruption.
One of the sources, from Dalian, told the magazine that graft-busters from the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection had been stationed in the port city for several days and that Xu had been detained, adding that the corruption watchdog had also detained another person.
It remained unclear whether Xu's reported disappearance had anything to do with the dismissal of Bo as Chongqing municipal party secretary on March 15, although Xu was said to be a close friend of Bo. Their friendship reportedly stretched to the early 1990s, when Bo was a rising political star prominent in the overseeing of Dalian.
Malaysia-based Shin Min Daily News reported on March 17 that Xu had paid school fees for Bo's son at Harrow, Oxford and Harvard. The report could not be independently verified and Bo denies the allegations, insisting that his son received full scholarships but declining to elaborate during a meeting with journalists on the sidelines of the National People's Congress on March 9.
Phoenix TV reported that Xu's elder brother Xu Bin, his deputy and other executives had taken charge of Shide's daily operations.
The magazine also quoted sources as saying China Construction Bank had begun to recall a loan to Shide and halted any new credit to the firm, though a bank spokesman refused to comment.
Dalian has long been regarded as Bo's power base. He served in the northeastern city for some 16 years before his promotion to acting governor of Liaoning in 2000.
In 2003, rumours were rife at home and abroad that Xu was Wen Jiabao's son-in-law ahead of the premier's promotion to his current post. The speculation died down when the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency denied the reports days before the National People's Congress opened.
Last month, Wen publicly castigated Chongqing authorities and told them to 'seriously reflect upon and learn lessons from the Wang Lijun incident'.
Wang was Bo's police chief who headed Chongqing's controversial crackdown on organised crime. The two fell out early this year, resulting in Wang's attempted defection to the US consulate in Chengdu.