It’s not unusual for top executives of public companies in Hong Kong to go missing. Often the disappearance is related to a broad crackdown on the financial industry after China’s stock-market meltdown over the summer.

Share story

HONG KONG — The chairman of the Hong Kong arm of one of China’s biggest securities companies goes missing. The head of another firm resurfaces after months incommunicado. An executive at a film studio is detained for allegedly taking bribes.

They’re not plot outlines for crime novels but real-life cases lifted from the normally dry Hong Kong Stock Exchange filings of Chinese companies over the past year.

The latest example came Monday when Guotai Junan International Holdings, the Hong Kong unit of a Chinese securities company, said it was unable to reach its Chairman and Chief Executive Yim Fung since Nov. 18, sending its shares plummeting 12 percent.

Speculation swirled in local media that his disappearance was related to a recently launched investigation into a senior official at China’s securities regulator. That probe is part of a broad crackdown on the finance industry after China’s stock-market meltdown over the summer.

Such cases would be highly unusual for other global financial centers but have become commonplace in Hong Kong.

“It shows on one level that investing in some of these companies is quite risky,” said Jamie Allen, secretary-general of the Asian Corporate Governance Association. “It also says a lot about the legal and political system in China. China doesn’t have a system of law like Hong Kong. In China you can disappear.”

Among the Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies that have reported missing executives this year:

• Waste-disposal company Dongjiang Environmental last month suspended its shares from trading because it couldn’t reach Chairman Zhang Weiyang before a board meeting. The company said it later found out from Zhang’s family that he was being investigated “by the relevant authority” in China, although it didn’t say why.

• Shopping-mall and department-store operator Century Ginwa Retail Holdings said in September that its chairman, Wu Yijian, who went missing in mid-May, had resurfaced and gone back to work. He explained to the company that he was “assisting the relevant department” of the Chinese government with an investigation.