Before he became a billionaire, Dai Lin would ride his bike to work, pedaling through the streets of Tianjin to the headquarters of Tiandy Technologies Co., the camera maker he built with support from China’s government.
When Dai started his company in 1994, roadside surveillance cameras were rare in China. Now they’re everywhere -- part of a high-tech surveillance state that’s stoking privacy and human-rights concerns in the world’s most populous nation, raising thorny questions for international investors, and making well-connected entrepreneurs like Dai extremely rich.
The 54-year-old former academic, who now drives a luxury sedan and rewards high-performing employees with BMWs, is the latest of at least four businessmen to amass billion-dollar-plus fortunes from surveillance companies that count China’s government as a major client or investor. Their combined net worth exceeds $12 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
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