Elizabeth (Ying) Zhong was a grandmother who had been looking forward to living her life with her new partner, a friend told the Herald.
A body believed to be that of the 55-year-old business woman reported missing from Counties Manukau East was found yesterday afternoon.
A source told the Herald the body was uplifted from a vehicle a few streets away from her $2 million Sunnyhills home, but police would not confirm this.
Police said identification of the body was yet to be confirmed, but the death was being treated as unexplained and an investigation had been launched.
Detective Inspector Shaun Vickers said a post-mortem would be conducted today and police would provide further information when possible.
In her heyday, Zhong was a sponsor of projects and festivals - including the 2017 Asia Pacific Film festival.
"I am totally shocked to hear the news that she is gone," said the friend, who did not want to be named.
"The last time we met, she introduced me to her new partner and we also talked about her daughter and grandchild in Wellington, and she was looking forward to living her new life."
Zhong came to New Zealand with her ex-husband and daughter in 1997.
She has a new partner, who is a property developer.
Her friend, who is also a business associate, described her as a "smart businesswoman" and was respected by many in the film industry.
The Herald understand Zhong was also a close associate of the late Jihong Lu, and had been in talks with the controversial theatre promoter in the early stages about being part of the failed City of 100 Lovers production.
Zhong had also been active in working with investors from China, and host visiting delegations - such as one from Shanxi that came in 2018 - at vineyards she owned.
Zhong was a businesswoman with multiple company directorships. She was reported missing from her Sunnyhills home and was last seen on Friday afternoon.
Last night several police cars were seen outside her home after the body was discovered.
Ex-husband Frank Fu would not comment when contacted by the Herald this morning.
Zhong had had health issues recently, and was the sole owner and director of two wine-making companies now in receivership - Kennedy Point Vineyard on Waiheke Island and Carrick Wines in Central Otago.
She was also sole owner and director of film production company Digital Post Ltd, Digipost Entertainment and associated companies.
Digipost offers computer animation and graphics, film post production, sound mixing and visual effects.
Credits the company had been involved with include Mosely, Ash versus Evil Dad, Mt Zion, Spartacus, Love Birds and 30 Days of Night.
Its website states: "Digipost is New Zealand's most experienced post production and visual effects company dedicated to bringing to life the creative endeavours of our clients, delivering the highest quality services to the film, advertising and television industries."
In 2018, Variety reported that Zhong and Digipost were part of a "three-way development and finance deal" with Tim White's Southern Light Films and Super Entertainment for live action-CGI fantasy film Shelved worth up to $56 million.
Variety reported the movie was about "two slacker robots who fret about being replaced by humans". The movie, which included the involvement of NZ-born director of Shrek, Andrew Adamson – would be a New Zealand-China co-production.
• Police are continuing to appeal for information over Zhong's death. People are asked to call 105, quoting file number 201128/1909, or Counties Manukau Police on 09 2611 321 if they have further information.