On June 15, 2020, Chinese police rescued He Xiangjian, one of China’s richest men and founder of Midea Group, one of the world’s largest producers of appliances. He had been the latest Asian billionaire to experience a kidnapping ordeal, serving as a reminder that a wealthy, high-status person is an alluring target for kidnappers seeking major paydays. Here are some past, infamous kidnappings of Asian billionaires:
Teddy Wang Teh-huei:
Chairman of property development firm Chinachem Group, Teddy Wang was reported to have survived several kidnappings over the course of his career. However, when he was kidnapped from his Mercedes on April 10, 1990, the 56-year-old did not resurface as he had after previous ordeals.
This attack was believed to have been well-orchestrated by a gang operating in separate cells across Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. Although his wife paid HK$468 million (US$60.4 million) for half of the ransom, Wang was never returned. He was reported to have been bound, gagged and thrown into the sea by his kidnappers and was officially declared dead in 1999.
Victor Li Tzar-kuoi:
In the late 1990s, high-profile kidnappings by Chinese gangster Cheung Tze-keung, nicknamed “Big Spender”, shook Hong Kong. One of his targets was Victor Li, chairman of CK Asset Holdings and CK Hutchison, and also elder son of Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man. On the evening of May 23, 1996, Li was seized at gunpoint when his car was cornered near his home at Deep Water Bay. He was released upon the ransom payment of HK$1 billion (US$129 million), reported to be the largest ransom ever paid.
Li Ka-shing shared in an interview 17 years later that Cheung had turned up at his home and ordered a HK$2 billion ransom for his son’s release. Li told Cheung that he could only give half of the requested amount immediately – which Cheung accepted.
A year later, “Big Spender” Cheung ran a similar operation on Walter Kwok, formerly the chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties. Intercepted while on his way home on September 29, 1997, Kwok was blindfolded and transported to a hut in the New Territories. Kwok refused to contact his family regarding a ransom and was beaten and forced into a makeshift wooden cage. He eventually relented and called his wife.
Following a week of negotiations, Cheung received HK$600 million (US$77.4 million) and Kwok emerged from the kidnapping a scarred man, physically and mentally.
On September 20, 2015, the chairman of Pearl Oriental Oil Wong Yuk-kwan, also known as Wong Kwan, was abducted as he left his residence in Xindian district, New Taipei City. After his abduction, Wong’s office in Hong Kong received a video from his kidnappers demanding HK$70 million (US$9 million) in bitcoin. The 68-year-old was finally rescued by police in western Taiwan after spending 38 days imprisoned and beaten.
His kidnappers were allegedly linked to Taiwan’s Bamboo Union triad, one of the world’s largest organised crime groups dealing in an assortment of illegal activities.
Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.