A company owned by a billionaire based in Dalian in the northeast has issued a statement dismissing intense speculation that he is being investigated after failing to appear in public since late March.
Rumours surrounding company chairman Wang Jianlin swirled in recent days. He has long been seen as a close associate of Bo Xilai, the disgraced former party secretary of Chongqing.
In the statement issued by the Dalian Wanda Group on Sunday, the property developer said Wang and the company had been victims of online rumours that said he had been implicated by 'someone' and barred from travelling abroad.
The property giant said all such rumours were untrue, and that Wang (pictured) had shown up at a working conference for non-state-owned enterprises and had been received by central leaders on March 21.
The statement added that the Ministry of Civil Affairs had recently invited him to the headquarters of the central government in Beijing to receive the government's prestigious China Charity Award for philanthropy, and that Wang returned from an overseas trip on March 29.
Since late last month, numerous calls to Wang's mobile phone went unanswered, until Wednesday, when a man who identified himself as Wang's secretary answered the phone and denied that an investigation into Wang was under way, telling the South China Morning Post: 'Everything is operating normally. He [Wang] is all right and in Beijing at the moment.'
Wang is a well-known property tycoon who amassed his fortune in Dalian, the power base of Bo, after working as general manager for the Dalian Wanda Group in 1992, the year Bo was appointed the acting mayor of the port city.
With a net worth of about US$4 billion, the 57-year-old Wang was rated by Forbes magazine last month as the world's 276th richest person, and 11th richest in China. Dalian Wanda earned US$17 billion yuan last year.