China’s Disappeared: A Look at Who Went Missing in 2018
China’s Disappeared: A Look at Who Went Missing in 2018
(Photo: AP/Altered by The Quint)

China’s Disappeared: A Look at Who Went Missing in 2018

It's not uncommon for individuals who speak out against the government to disappear in China, but the scope of the "disappeared" has expanded since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.

Not only dissidents and activists, but also high-level officials, Marxists, foreigners and even a movie star — people who never publicly opposed the ruling Communist Party — have been whisked away by police to unknown destinations.

The widening dragnet throws into stark relief the lengths to which Xi's administration is willing to go to maintain its control and authority.

A look at some of the people who went missing in 2018 at the hands of the Chinese state:

Foreign Pawns

China threatened "grave consequences" if Canada did not release high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou, shortly after the Huawei chief financial officer was detained in Vancouver in December for possible extradition to the US.

The apparent consequences materialised within days, when two Canadian men went missing in China. Both turned up in the hands of state security on suspicion of endangering national security, a nebulous category of crimes that has been levied against foreigners in recent years.

In this file image made from a video taken on 28 March 2018, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organisation, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. 
In this file image made from a video taken on 28 March 2018, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organisation, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. 
(Photo: AP)
Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was taken by authorities from a Beijing street late in the evening, a person familiar with his case said. He is allowed one consular visit a month and has not been granted access to a lawyer, as is standard for state security cases.

Also detained is Michael Spavor, who organises tours to North Korea from the border city of Dandong. China has not said whether their detentions are related to Meng's, but a similar scenario unfolded in the past.

In this file image made from video taken on 2 March 2017, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. 
In this file image made from video taken on 2 March 2017, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. 
(Photo: AP)

A Canadian couple was detained in 2014 on national security grounds shortly after Canada arrested Su Bin, a Chinese man wanted for industrial espionage in the US.

Like Spavor, Kevin and Julia Garratt lived in Dandong, where they ran a popular coffee shop for nearly a decade. They also worked with a Christian charity that provided food to North Korean refugees.

While Julia Garratt was released on bail, her husband was held for more than two years before he was deported in September 2016 — about two months after Su pleaded guilty in the US.

Security Insider

Unlike most swallowed up by China's opaque security apparatus, Meng Hongwei knew exactly what to expect.

Meng Hongwei, no relation to the Huawei executive, is a vice minister of public security who was serving as head of Interpol, the France-based organisation that facilitates police cooperation across borders.
In this 4 July  2017 photo, Interpol President Meng Hongwei delivers his opening address at the Interpol World congress, in Singapore.  
In this 4 July 2017 photo, Interpol President Meng Hongwei delivers his opening address at the Interpol World congress, in Singapore.  
(Photo: AP)

In September, Meng became the latest high-ranking official caught in Xi's banner anti-corruption campaign. The initiative is a major reason for the Chinese leader's broad popularity, but he has been accused of using it to eliminate political rivals.

Meng was missing for weeks, before Chinese authorities said he was being investigated for taking bribes and other crimes. A Chinese delegation delivered a resignation letter from Meng to Interpol headquarters.

Tax-Evading Actress

Fan Bingbing was living every starlet's dream. Since a breakthrough role at the age of 17, Fan has headlined dozens of movies and TV series, and parlayed her success into modelling, fashion design and other ventures that have made her one of the highest-paid celebrities in the world.

All this made her a potent icon of China's economic success, until authorities reminded Fan — and her legion of admirers — that even she was not untouchable.

 In this 8 May 2018 photo, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing poses for photographers upon arrival at the opening ceremony of the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France. 
In this 8 May 2018 photo, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing poses for photographers upon arrival at the opening ceremony of the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France. 
(Photo: AP)
For about four months, Fan vanished from public view. Her Weibo social media account, which has more than 63 million followers, fell silent. Her management office in Beijing was vacated.

Her birthday on 16 September came and went with only a handful of greetings from entertainment notables.

When she finally resurfaced, it was to apologise.

"I sincerely apologise to society, to the friends who love and care for me, to the people, and to the country's tax bureau," Fan said in a letter posted on Weibo on 3 October.

She admitted to tax evasion. State news agency Xinhua reported that Fan and the companies she represents had been ordered to pay taxes and penalties totalling 900 million yuan ($130 million).

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