China Anti-Graft Drive Targets Hong Kong Staff of Huarong: FT

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong-based staff at some units of China Huarong Asset Management Co. were ordered to surrender their personal travel documents as a corruption investigation into the state-owned firm reached outside mainland China, the Financial Times reported.

The order targeted Chinese nationals working in the former British colony, who were told they would face unspecified punishment if they didn’t turn over their documents by April 23, the newspaper said, citing emails and documents. The demand came from Huarong’s organization department, which answers to a government body controlled by China’s Communist Party, according to the FT.

Huarong’s press office didn’t immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

Chinese authorities said last week that Huarong Chairman Lai Xiaomin was under investigation for graft. Huarong, one of China’s biggest asset management firms, was one of four companies set up by the government in 1999 to help clean up a banking system riddled with bad debt. The company, which went public in Hong Kong in 2015, was trading down 0.4 percent at 9:43 a.m. local time Thursday.

Since becoming president in 2013, Xi Jinping has pushed an anti-corruption campaign that has ensnared more than 1.5 million Communist Party cadres. More recently, the anti-graft drive has been reaching into corporate boardrooms as part of an effort to halt the debt-fueled expansion of China’s biggest businesses. High-profile executives at state-owned enterprises and private sector billionaires are finding their wealth and connections are no longer enough to shield them from probes into corruption and financial crimes.

Freezes on employee travel can be common on the mainland during corruption probes. Still, confiscating passports in Hong Kong is a breach of local laws, the FT said, citing an official from the city’s Labour Department.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Zhang Dingmin in Beijing at dzhang14@bloomberg.net.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Zhang Dingmin