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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Unlike most swallowed up by China's opaque security apparatus, Meng Hongwei knew exactly what to expect.
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.
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.
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).
(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.