China firm’s stock tanks on tycoon’s child sex assault arrest

Shanghai: Shares related to a Chinese property tycoon plunged for a second day on Thursday after his arrest for suspected child molestation, in a case that sparked anger over an apparently botched attempt to censor the affair.

Police in Shanghai announced Wednesday that a man had been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl.

Chinese media reports subsequently confirmed that the man was Wang Zhenhua, 57-year-old billionaire chairman of Seazen Holdings.

Hong Kong-listed shares in a pair of companies linked to Wang — Future Land Holdings and Xinchengyue — have since plunged around 30 per cent.

The news appeared not to have affected Shanghai-listed Seazen Holdings on Wednesday, but the stock fell the maximum allowable 10 percent on Thursday, triggering an automatic suspension.

Police said a man surnamed Wang was arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse, along with a woman surnamed Zhou.

Chinese media reports have said that Zhou delivered the nine-year-old girl to Wang after bringing her from another province for a trip to Shanghai Disneyland, after which Wang allegedly paid Zhou.

The girl later reported to her mother that she had been molested, leading to the arrest of Wang and Zhou, according to the reports.

Chinese web-users subsequently expressed outrage when a posting began circulating online, purportedly from a Shanghai public affairs official, instructing media outlets not to report on the case.

China’s media is tightly controlled by the government, which routinely censors or squelches news that could embarrass authorities or well-connected figures.

But netizens poured scorn on the public affairs official, with some suggesting he had a financial interest in Wang’s companies, and they cheered as media continued to report the story on Thursday.

“Was this related to the stock price? There must be some connection,” said one posting.

“These fools,” added another post. “Our voices can’t and won’t be suppressed.”

Seazen and other companies controlled by Wang engage in property development and management.

Seazen Holdings has said Wang had been replaced as chairman of the company.

Future Land Holdings had sales of 221 billion yuan ( 32.13 billion) in 2018, ranking 8th in China, the state-controlled Global Times reported.

The bulk of Wang’s net worth comes from his stakes in Future Land and Xinchengyue.

On Wednesday alone, his fortune dropped by 1.4 billion to 5.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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