Millionaire businessman-blogger running for his life missing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 9:00pm


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A Shanxi millionaire who become a hit on the Sina Weibo blogging service with his story of being robbed of his successful business by local authorities has gone missing, according to a report in a Beijing newspaper.

“I used to be an enterpreneur worth hundreds of millions yuan, but now I am a homeless man running for my life,” read one of 60-year-old Wei Xianfa’s Weibo posts. “I didn’t lose my money to gambling or mismanagement - I was robbed.”

Wei, who turned a disused bauxite plant into a profitable business in China’s coal-rich Shanxi province, was forced to hand over the plant to local officials in 2007.

The officials later sold it to a government affiliated business for nothing, China Business Times reported on Friday.

The story began in 1989 when Wei leased the plant from the local government in Shanxi’s Pinglu county. After the lease ended in 1996, officials pleaded him to renew the contract despite his unwillingness to continue with the job, said the report. Bit Wei acquiesced and continued to run the company under an oral agreement with the officials.

However, in 1998, under a new policy the central government ordered that Wei be given ownership of the plant as he had invested more than 8 million yuan of his own money in it and had helped make the plant very profitable.

But local authorities, Wei said, refused to transfer the ownership to him unless he paid a 2 million yuan bribe to them.

Wei refused to pay and was forced to quit in 2007 without compensation.

The plant was then sold to a firm run by the son of a local official. And the selling price? Zero.

Destitute, Wei fought against the injustice by petitioning officials in Shanxin and Beijing to redress his case. But like many other petitioners in China, Wei paid heavy price for pressing his case and was even physically threatened by local officials.

For the past few years, Wei has been on the run, constantly followed, harassed and illegally detained many times.

He had slept in windowless rural hotel rooms, under bridges, and in tree caves. His wife divorced him after his years of running and hiding. His father had changed phone number over 100 times in the past years to steer away from wiretappers.

In a last-ditch effort to avenge himself, Wei turned to China’s social media. He started blogging on Weibo in December to reveal his story.

Wei posted 13 Weibo messages which drew more than 143,000 followers before the blogging stopped on December 8.

“If I fail to update Weibo for 48 hours, I am in trouble,” he wrote on December 6.

Wei said he had been hunted by thugs from Shanxi and wrote about the few times he had narrowly escaped.

“A man talked a waitress into opening my room just now. After he saw me, he said it was a mistake and left.” Wei wrote on December 6 when he was staying in a hotel in Beijing. Wei said he had found out later the man was from Shanxi and this made him anxious.

Wei called a relative on December 8 after moving to a different hotel. In the phone conversation, he said his bag was missing from his room. That was the last he was heard of, said the report.

The security camera of the hotel where Wei had last stayed shows a man dressed in blue clothes entering his room around 3:50pm.

The police have been notified that Wei is missing but it’s not clear if their investigation has come up with.

Wei’s father has also been reported missing.

Wei’s last Weibo post on December 8 has received more than 4,500 comments and 3,500 reposts as of Saturday.

“I hope you are still alive,” said one Weibo user.

“This old man needs saving,” said another Weibo user, “Where’s the our rule of law? Where’s CCTV?”