An angry Chinese investor stabbed the chief executive of a troubled asset management company into which he had poured hundreds of thousands of yuan, reports said, highlighting tensions created by the country's financial turmoil.
Wang Jie remained hospitalised on Wednesday, his company Global Wealth Investment (Beijing) told AFP, after a meeting of investors to discuss losses turned bloody.
The attacker sat next to Wang at the gathering and "pretended that nothing was wrong", an eyewitness told Chinese financial news outlet Caixin, before suddenly pulling out a knife and stabbing the CEO in the left shoulder, leaving him with a 15 centimetre-long wound.
The assailant, who had invested 300,000 yuan ($47,000) in a product that has failed to pay out, was held by police on suspicion of intentional homicide, Caixin reported.
The incident is a demonstration of how investor losses in China's murky and volatile financial system can lead to tensions and even violence.
“We’re not just facing financial pressures -- it’s difficult to even protect our personal safety,” a source close to Global Wealth told Caixin.
China's stock market has plunged by more than a third since it peaked in mid-June as a bubble burst, prompting authorities to spend hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prop up prices.
But Global Wealth operated in an even less orderly area of China's financial landscape -- so-called "wealth management products".
They offer savers better rates of return than they could get from bank deposits, but only by investing in higher-risk companies that cannot secure funding from more orthodox sources -- and Global Wealth's investors were the victims when supposed safeguards failed.
Global Wealth lent out around 710 million yuan in transactions backed by China’s second-largest loan-guarantee company, Hebei Financing Investment Holding Group, which is owned by the Hebei provincial government.
Hebei Financing has run into problems of its own and reneged on its guarantees earlier this year, leaving Global Wealth with no safety net when its borrowers began to default.
It is now holding meetings with its own investors -- around 660 of whom are affected -- every week, with Sunday's event in Beijing the scene of the stabbing.
State-backed loan guarantee firms are a key link in China’s plans for economic revival, facilitating finance opportunities for smaller businesses by luring in lenders with the implicit promise that the government will intervene if borrowers fail to pay their debts.
But insiders say that the loan-guarantee industry needs more regulation.
"The sector still lacks effective risk control," Zhou Dewen, president of a business development association, told the state-run Global Times in April, as Hebei Financing was plunged into crisis.
Hebei Financing has liabilities of nearly 50 billion yuan, Caixin said, but at the end of 2013 its assets amounted to only 10.7 billion yuan.
Police and Hebei Financing could not be reached for comment Wednesday.