Billionaire Xiao Jianhua’s Whereabouts Still a Mystery

Following reports that Chinese-born Canadian citizen and Hong Kong permanent resident —a billionaire former dealmaker for CCP elites—had been abducted from Hong Kong and taken to the mainland by Chinese agents, Chinese censors ordered information on Xiao and his company Tomorrow Group to be deleted. State media then denied any abduction, and statements ascribed to Xiao claiming that he had not been abducted, was undergoing medical treatment abroad, and believes Beijing to be “civilized and adherent to the rule of law” were also posted to Tomorrow Group’s public WeChat account. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper ran a similar statement as an ad, allegedly commissioned by Xiao. The WeChat statements were later deleted, and an unnamed associate of Xiao’s told The New York Times they were untrue and meant to dampen public interest in the story. At Bloomberg, David Tweed and Cathy Chan survey more recent, mostly opaque statements from various sources on Xiao’s whereabouts:

As of Wednesday, Xiao remained outside China, according to a subordinate in contact with him daily. That person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private, declined to be more specific.

The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong declined Wednesday to confirm whether Xiao is a Canadian citizen, citing privacy issues. Consulate officials had been in touch with local authorities for information following the media reports, said Cindy Tang, a spokeswoman.

[…] A Hong Kong police statement released Tuesday about “a Mainland citizen in Hong Kong” didn’t name the person. Officers received a “request for police assistance” on Jan. 28, but a family member later said the person contacted relatives and was safe, so the report was withdrawn. The investigation showed the person entered China from Hong Kong on Jan. 27, which is the day Xiao reportedly left [his residence at] the Four Seasons.

A spokeswoman for the Four Seasons Hotel, Priscilla Chan, declined to comment Wednesday. […] [Source]

The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin and Chester Yung report that Hong Kong police launched a probe into the missing billionaire’s location on Wednesday, and note other recent official non-confirmations as to Xiao’s whereabouts:

Hong Kong police waded into a mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a Chinese-born billionaire on Wednesday, saying they had asked mainland authorities for more information after determining the businessman crossed the border into China.

[…] Disquiet over Mr. Xiao’s fate is likely to spread further if it emerges that Mr. Xiao, a well-connected businessman, was subject to the same treatment as Mr. Lee, the bookseller [believed to have been detained by Chinese agents, but who later denied that he was abducted], in a city long celebrated as a capitalist sanctuary. Mr. Lee returned after three months and gave few details of his absence beyond saying he had gone to the mainland voluntarily to assist in an investigation.

[…] An official in the press office of China’s Ministry of Public Security said the office couldn’t process requests for comment during the Lunar New Year holiday. Calls to the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office went unanswered.

A number of high-profile businessmen have gone missing since President Xi vowed to sweep away corruption four years ago. One notable example is Hua Bangsong, the founder of refinery designer Wison Engineering Services Co., who was detained by investigators in 2013 and sentenced in 2015 to three years in prison for bribery. Days after he was detained, he made his debut on the Hurun Report rich list at No. 335 with an estimated worth of $900 million. [Source]

The mystery of Xiao’s whereabouts have stoked ongoing political anxiety in semiautonomous Hong Kong, coming on the heels of the disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers in late 2015 and early 2016, and as concerns fester about the future of the semiautonomous territory’s legal autonomy and media freedoms. Freedom House’s most recent Freedom in the World report, released this week, warned against Beijing’s continuing encroachment on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

At the Hong Kong Free Press, Kris Cheng reports on Hong Kong Chief Executive candidate Regina Ip’s claims that the mystery surrounding Xiao highlights the need for an extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Beijing:

Chief executive contender Regina Ip has said the issue behind the reported abduction of a Chinese billionaire from Hong Kong was that the city has no fugitive extradition agreement with the mainland.

“It has not been followed up with after I left [the government],” said Ip, the former security secretary. “If there is a formal legal fugitive extradition agreement, we can provide assistance if the mainland requires any investigative needs; but we do not have a fugitive extradition agreement or a mutual legal assistance agreement, so there may be cases that Hongkongers are concerned about. The next administration should put forward [an agreement].” [Source]

See also the South China Morning Post’s list of publicly traded companies in Hong Kong and China linked to Xiao Jianhua.