Some shareholders were celebrating the recent buyout of TOM Online (NASDAQ:TOMO) by its parent, TOM Group. Those who bought a few days back got a quick 20% gain.

This investor, however, sees this self-interested inside buyout as a grim reminder that Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies often don't have the interests of outside investors at the top of their priority lists.

For me, the tale is told in the following statement from the Tom takeover filing.

"While TOM remains confident in the future prospects for TOM Online's WVAS business and its additional new media initiatives, TOM is of the view that the short- and medium-term volatility and potential uncertain financial performance for TOM Online make TOM Online poorly suited to remain a publicly listed entity."

To me, that sounds like a nice way of saying, "There are no longer enough optimistic suckers out there for us to reap the benefits of a public listing, so we're taking our cash flow and going home."

Though TOM Online has been a long-term loser for shareholders, I still think the future prospects for the company were decent. Though pummeled by the same regulatory action that whacked Kongzhong (NASDAQ:KONG) and Linktone (NASDAQ:LTON), alas -- aside from the pittance tossed to investors this week -- any real gains will be reaped by the Hong Kong tycoon who already ran the show at TOM Group, Li Ka-shing.

If you've ever been to China, you've probably noticed that commerce is something of a brass-knuckle sport there. Keep that in mind next time someone approaches you with the next sure-fire Chinese winner. Here there be dragons.

TOM Online is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Seth Jayson, who spends a lot of time looking at Chinese investment ideas, is part of the Motley Fool Global Gains team, bringing you investment ideas pulled from the world's greatest companies. Comments? Bring them here.

At the time of publication, Seth had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.