Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Questions Over Missing Billionaire

A file photo of Xiao Jianhua, who has disappeared from Hong Kong
There are reports that a mainland Chinese billionaire was taken away from his apartment in the Four Seasons Hong Kong and taken across the border on Friday.

The latest is that Xiao Jianhua, 46, was last seen leaving the hotel in Central with a group of people. And then it was reported he crossed the border to Shenzhen at 3pm that day.

It's all very mysterious, but It is eerily reminiscent of the five booksellers who went missing over a year ago.

He was last seen at the Four Seasons Hong Kong (left)
This time it's not sure what has happened to Xiao, as he is considered to be highly connected to Beijing circles.

He's been known to be a banker to Beijing elites and their relatives, and made many business deals in areas from banking to coal, cement, insurance and property that have made him and his company Tomorrow Group worth about US$5.8 billion.

However suspicions arose this week when two statements were issued in Xiao's name apparently on his WeChat account claiming he was on the mainland.

The first one, issued on Monday said: "I, Xiao Jianhua, am recuperating overseas now and all is good! Business is normal at Tomorrow Group!"

The second statement released yesterday said the tycoon had not been "captured" and taken back to the mainland, and would appear "very soon after the treatment".

Xiao is highly connected to Beijing
It added Xiao was a Canadian citizen, and that he enjoyed consular protection from Canada, and as a Hong Kong permanent resident, he was covered by the city's laws. He was even quoted as saying he held a "diplomatic passport", that was issued from Antigua.

"I have diplomatic protection as I hold a diplomatic passport. Please don't worry about me," it said.

These two statements were later deleted from the account.

Then today there was an ad taken out in Ming Pao newspaper that basically reiterated the second statement, and said Wang loved his country and had never been involved in any situation that might damage the country's interests or the government's image, or supported an opposition organization.

It's all very strange, as Xiao is considered to be very well connected, but the two messages and in particular the advertisement seem very contrived and hard to believe. Why would anyone take out an ad like that?

If these messages were meant to be reassurances, they had the opposite reaction. Just because a mainlander has a Canadian passport means nothing to Beijing -- especially if he did not cross the border using his passport (with a visa in it).

This case may not garner as much sympathy in Hong Kong because Xiao is a mainlander, but the principle is the same -- a Hong Kong resident cannot be taken across the border against his will which is in Article 28 of the Basic Law.

Here we have the chills again, that anyone can be spirited away across the border without any signs. The fact that he was taken away in such a public place is quite daring.

We will have to see what happens, but it may be weeks or months before we hear something...

2 comments:

  1. Doesn't it say so much that a Mainland-born billionaire, whose business was (predominantly) on the Mainland, chose to live in Hong Kong and become a citizen of Canada? I think it tells you what people like him feel about their safety in China, etc.!

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    1. HI YTSL -- it shows how many tycoons are stuck in limbo -- they depend on the mainland to make money and yet they want to have some kind of protection, but having a foreign passport means nothing to China -- it still considers people like him Chinese and can be prosecuted. Hong Kong is supposedly a safer haven, but not really...

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