China’s richest woman resurfaces in phone call to ex-husband

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Whitney, Desmond, Ariston

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China’s richest woman, who ran afoul of Communist Party politics and disappeared in 2017, resurfaced briefly on Sept. 4 in a phone call to her ex-husband, according to a new report.

Whitney Duan, 50, warned Desmond Shum in a phone call seemingly monitored by her handlers that he should not publish his new book about life among China’s treacherous business elite, Shum told the Sunday Times of London.

Shum, whose book, ““Red Roulette,” (Scribner),” has just come out, told the Times that he got the call from Duan, his ex-wife and former high-powered business partner Whitney Duan, 50, while asleep at home in Oxford where he now lives.

Duan hadn’t been heard from since she vanished from her office in Beijing in 2017. Shum told the Times that he and Whitney’s 12-year-old son longed to hear from but said her phone call was clearly being monitored by officials and she was saying what she was told to say.

“That’s the tough part. That’s the Communist Party,” said Shum, 52. “They intentionally did that, right? It’s psychological warfare.”

Whitney Duan disappeared from her office in 2017.
Desmond Shum

Shum said the call contained “veiled threats.”

After growing up poor, Duan wheeled and dealed her way to a billion-dollar fortune, making her name as China’s most successful female entrepreneur. 

Then, on Sept. 5, 2017, at age 50, she simply disappeared from the streets of Beijing, one of a number of Chinese billionaires, like Jack Ma, who have disappeared from public life in recent years as China cracks down on them.

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