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Fake Hong Kong Company Behind Corrupt Redevelopment Scheme

January 27, 2005

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Shanghai tycoon Zhou Zhengyi used a non-existent company as a vehicle for the urban redevelopment project that displaced hundreds of local residents.

HRIC has obtained a copy of a letter sent to Chinese president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao by Shen Ting, a Hong Kong resident whose parents were among the people forcibly removed from the redevelopment site. (The letter is appended to HRIC’s Chinese press release.) Shen Ting carried out inquiries into a Hong Kong-registered company, Fine Time Investments Ltd., which signed a contract with Shanghai’s Jing’an District Government for the redevelopment project. Searches at Hong Kong’s Business Registration Office determined that Fine Time Investments is not registered in Hong Kong.

The contract with the local Shanghai government stated Fine Time Investments’ address as Room 1801 in the Far East Finance Centre at 16 Harcourt Road in Hong Kong’s Queensway District. Further inquiries established that this office has been occupied since 1997 by an Arab bank, so the address could not have been accurate at the time that Zhou Zhengyi signed the redevelopment contract in 2002. According to HRIC’s own information, this office address was previously used by a number of companies established in Hong Kong by senior Chinese officials and their family members and business partners.

Shen Ting carried out further inquiries into all companies with a Chinese name similar to that of Fine Time Investments, and found four such companies registered in the past ten years. None of them bore the English name Fine Time Investments, and two have already been dissolved.

According to knowledgeable sources, Shen Ting investigated Fine Time Investment at the instruction of imprisoned lawyer Zheng Enchong, who advised hundreds of displaced residents in legal proceedings against Zhou Zhengyi. Zhou was eventually sentenced to three years in prison in June 2004 on charges of stock market fraud and falsifying documents, but only after Zheng Enchong was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2003 on charges of revealing state secrets. Prior to his arrest and imprisonment, Zheng Enchong had been instrumental in exposing corrupt relationships between Zhou Zhengyi and local Shanghai officials.

In her letter to the Chinese leadership, Shen Ting called for an official investigation into the case, in particular any culpability on the part of Chen Liangjun, the younger brother of Shanghai Municipal Party Secretary Chen Liangyu, who was Zhou Zhengyi’s partner in redeveloping Jing’an District. Shen Ting also called for Zheng Enchong’s conviction to be reviewed, and for his prison conditions to be improved in the meantime. Finally, she requested that appropriate compensation be paid to residents displaced by the redevelopment project.

“The information Shen Ting found seems to further vindicate Zheng Enchong’s efforts on behalf of the residents displaced by the redevelopment project,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It’s time for the authorities to review his case, and also to carry out further inquiries into the arrangements surrounding the redevelopment project in order to hold to account all officials and business entities that may have been involved in defrauding displaced residents and the public coffers.”