A CHINESE billionaire was reportedly abducted from his Hong Kong hotel by Chinese police on Friday and taken across the border to mainland China in a possible brazen violation of the “one country, two systems” policy under which Hong Kong and China operate.
According to the New York Times, Xiao Jianhua is currently in police custody in China. The purpose of his abduction remains unclear but it is believed that he may be assisting with a graft investigation that has been ordered by the Chinese government.
A government source told the South China Morning Post that Xiao, 46, left the Four Seasons Hotel on Friday morning, accompanied by an unidentified number of people. Hong Kong police officers are investigating the case and have reportedly contacted their Chinese counterparts to determine if Xiao had been arrested.
“The police investigation continues and we have asked relevant mainland departments to assist with following up on the situation of the victim in the mainland,” the statement from the police department said, without directly naming Xiao.
It also claimed that “the subject” had entered mainland China through a border crossing on Friday.
CCTV footage at the hotel has been examined and shows no sign of a struggle.
A missing persons case was submitted to the Hong Kong police by Xiao’s wife on Saturday, a day after his disappearance, but the request for assistance was mysteriously withdrawn a day later.
Since his disappearance, Xiao has denied that he was abducted in two messages posted to his company’s WeChat account.
“Regarding the reports on me in recent days, I have to say that I, Xiao Jianhua, have been recovering from an illness outside the country,” he said in one of the posts.
In another statement, he denied doing anything to harm China’s ruling Communist party or working with any “opposing forces or organisations”.
The statement also quoted Xiao as saying that as a Canadian citizen he enjoyed the consular protection of Canada, and as a Hong Kong permanent resident, he was covered by the city’s laws. He was also quoted as saying he held a “diplomatic passport”.
“I have diplomatic protection as I hold a diplomatic passport. Please don’t worry about me,” it said. It is reported that the diplomatic passport he refers to is from Antigua and Barbados.
According to an anonymous source, reporting to the New York Times, those statements were untrue and were meant to quash interest in the story as China’s government did not want it publicised.
Both statements have since been deleted from the company account, along with all previous posts.
— Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN) January 31, 2017
Xiao is the founder of the Tomorrow Group, a Beijing-based company that has close ties with powerful mainland politicians and has stakes in businesses ranging from banking to trust funds.
In the past Xiao bought shares held by the sister and brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping, claiming that he was helping the family dispose of their assets at a time when they were coming under scrutiny following a June 2012 Bloomberg News report.
The case of Xiao’s disappearance is reminiscent of the case of Lee Bo, a bookseller who was spirited off the streets of Hong Kong back in 2015. The circumstances surrounding both abductions are incredibly similar with Bo’s wife abruptly withdrawing a missing persons report and Hong Kong border police having no record of Bo’s leaving the country.
The case unsettled people in Hong Kong by calling into question the legal guarantee that the territory remains autonomous and that Chinese police are barred from operating within their borders under the agreement known as the “one country, two systems.”
The latest case of Xiao’s disappearance is also likely to stoke fears that Hong Kong is losing its autonomy.