China Unsolved is a SupChina weekly series profiling China’s most notorious unsolved mysteries.
Two old friends meet in a hotel. One of them disappears forever.
Images by Katie Morton
Tang Xuanxuan 汤宣悬 had known Lin Jinsong 林进松 since they were teenagers. The pair hung around together and later became drinking buddies. When Lin became a successful businessmen, it was natural that Tang would somehow end up getting involved. So there was nothing unusual when Lin called Tang around 10:30 on the night of April 10, 2011, asking him to come over to discuss “business.”
According to a 2015 post by somebody claiming to be Tang’s father, Kebin 克斌, Tang’s girlfriend and mother only became worried as the night wore on and called Tang, who reassured them he would be back soon. But when his mother rang back shortly after, Tang only replied “What?” and hung up.
When Tang failed to return by morning, his parents went to the hotel where the rendezvous had apparently taken place, an establishment which happened to be owned by Lin, by now a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member for Tiandeng County 天等县 in Guangxi province. But although Tang’s car was still sitting in the hotel’s parking lot, none of the staff claimed to have any idea about his whereabouts. At this point, Tang’s father says he called Lin to ask what had happened — and was told his son “knew too much.”
Tang’s family went to local police, who prevaricated for several days before reluctantly agreeing to investigate. By now, Tang had been gone almost a week, but it would take another before the family was invited to examine the surveillance video from Lin’s hotel: Tang was taped arriving but the footage showed nothing after Tang entered the building, apparently due to “problems” with the indoor cameras (in a 2015 interview with the Southern Metropolis Daily, police said they’d employed “specialized technicians to check the hotel’s CCTV equipment but were unable to confirm if that night’s video had been artificially removed,” adding the department had spent “hundreds of thousands” on the research).
Tang Kebin claims one policeman, Xu Shengwu 许胜武, advised the family that their son wasn’t alive but offered no proof of how he knew. Tang’s parents firmly believe that Lin was behind the disappearance of both their son and the CCTV footage, and argue he was been killed because he had “knowledge over Lin’s secrets.” Kebin has continued to petition authorities, who have claimed that his son’s case is “too complicated.”
For his part, Lin has admitted to making an appointment with Tang but claims they never actually met that night. He also denied having anything to with Tang’s disappearance, but mentioned that his former friend had a history of drug use, had been detained at least once by police, and needed to borrow money. Tang and Lin’s comparative social standings raise serious questions about how Guangxi police conducted their investigation, though.
Police insist that, despite devoting hundreds of hours to it, the case has failed to make significant progress due to lack of evidence, though it remains under review. While the family’s relations with public security officials remain strained, Tang’s father maintains that the mystery will never be solved because of Lin’s political connections, and has pleaded for online assistance to help to solve the case.