In the latest eerie disappearance to unsettle Hong Kong, a Chinese billionaire with links to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping was reportedly taken from his luxury apartment in the Four Seasons in Hong Kong and escorted across the border to the mainland by Chinese police.
Xiao Jianhua, a fiancier worth an estimated 40 billion yuan ($6 billion), is currently in police custody on the mainland, according to the Financial Times. The reason for his apparent detention is unknown, though there is speculation that Xiao may be “assisting” with one of many anti-corruption investigations launched by Xi.
Xiao is the owner of the Tomorrow Group, a diversified investment company with stakes in real-estate development, banking, insurance, coal and cement. He was born in Shandong province, but is also a Canadian citizen and holds a diplomatic passport from Antigua & Barbuda.
Back in 2014, he admitted to The New York Times that he had helped the family of the Chinese president dispose of assets, but insisted that they “didn’t make any extra profits through their family clout.”
According to reports, plain clothes Chinese security agents came to fetch Xiao from his luxury apartment at the Four Seasons. Hong Kong police report that he passed through one of the city’s land border crossings on January 27th.
After rumors of his disappearance began running wild, Xiao appeared to issue a statement on his company’s WeChat account denying that he had been abducted and instead claiming that he was receiving treatment for an illness abroad. However, both of those posts have now been deleted.
In their place, Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reprinted the two statements on the front page of their Wednesday paper with Xiao “signing” at the bottom.
“I think the Chinese government is a civilized, rule-of-law government, do not be mistaken! There was no such case of me being abducted to the mainland,” the full-page statement reads in part.
Advert on front page of Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao prints statement claiming to be from Xiao Jianhua, was deleted from company's WeChat pic.twitter.com/zMfe0yQGBi
— Benjamin Haas 本雅明 (@haasbenjamin) February 1, 2017
While Xiao’s relatives had filed a request for assistance from Hong Kong police on January 28th, they withdrew their request a day later.
For many in Hong Kong, this unsettling case will bring to mind the mysterious disappearances last year of five Hong Kong booksellers who later popped up in custody on the mainland.
Lam Wing-kee, one of the booksellers, revealed that he and his coworkers had been abducted from Hong Kong (and Thailand) by Chinese security agents and spirited away across the border where they were held in detention for months over their business in politically subversive books critical of Beijing.
The saga left many in Hong Kong questioning their protections and freedoms under the “one country, two systems” principle that Beijing promised to uphold when taking over the former British colony. Under Hong Kong’s own mini-constitution, only Hong Kong police are allowed to operate inside the region.
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