Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

7 Billionaires at Top of China's Rich List

HONG KONG -- Huang Guangyu, chairman of Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings, was named China's richest man for a second year with a fortune of $1.7 billion, according to an annual ranking of the country's wealthiest business people.

The 36-year-old founder of China's biggest home-appliance chain increased his wealth by 30 percent from $1.3 billion in 2004, Shanghai-based researcher Rupert Hoogewerf, who compiles the China Rich List, said in a statement. The number of billionaires jumped to seven from three.

China's tycoons have been publicity shy since several were jailed when former Premier Zhu Rongji "unleashed the tax authorities" after noticing the 2001 rich list, according to Forbes Magazine, which formerly published Hoogewerf's study. China's Communist Party, concerned by a growing wave of unrest, made narrowing the gap between the rich and poor a key theme of its annual meeting this week.

"The government will continue to selectively go after rich people to make examples of them to scare others," said Howard Snyder, president of Beijing-based Great Leap Capital, which advises foreign investors on buying distressed assets in China. The government "just wants to make sure taxes are paid."

The jailing of businessmen such as Chinese-Dutch flower baron, Yang Bin, ranked second in 2001, and Shanghai real estate magnate Zhou Zhengyi, ranked 11th in 2002, underlined the precarious nature of private wealth in an economy where corruption is rife and legal protections remain undeveloped.

The top 10 richest businesspeople paid $750 million in taxes last year and employ 300,000 people, according to the rich list. Only one person ranked last year dropped off the list: Gu Chujun, former chairman of Guangdong Kelon Electrical Holdings, who was detained on suspicion of economic crimes.

"Although there is an increasing rich/poor divide, many of China's richest entrepreneurs are also increasingly giving back to the community," Hoogewerf, who has produced the list since 1999, said in the statement.

Yan Jiehe, 45, head of privately owned China Pacific Construction Group, ranked second in this year's list after he increased his fortune more than sevenfold to $1.5 billion. Chen Tianqiao, 32, founder of Shanghai-based Shanda Interactive Entertainment, was third with wealth of $1.45 billion.

Gome's Huang, known in Hong Kong as Wong Kwong-yu, left his native Guangdong province at age 18 with a bag of cheap plastic home appliances and rented a market stall in Beijing. Gome, which operates 188 shops in 42 Chinese cities, said net income rose 176 percent last year to 458 million Hong Kong dollars ($58.7 million). Huang also invests in real estate.

In June last year, Huang sold 65 percent of the retailer to his Hong Kong-listed property company China Eagle Group and renamed it Gome, in what local investors call a back-door listing. He cut his stake in the company in December.

Yan's China Pacific Construction has contracts from China's city governments to build highways, Hurun Report said. The company is the country's biggest private employer with 100,000 staff, the report said.

Shanda's Chen, a former student at Shanghai's Fudan University, scraped together 500,000 yuan with friends to co-found Shanda in 1999, aiming to create online computer games for China's 100 million-plus teenagers. William Ding, 34, founder of NetEase.com, rose to fourth place from seventh. Nasdaq-listed Netease's shares have surged 53 percent this year. Xu Rongmao, 55, owner of Shanghai-based property developer Shimao Group, ranked behind Ding.