Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was seized by mainland police in his apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong last Friday. His whereabouts over the Lunar New Year weekend, a time of mass migration across China, were unknown. Reports by the South China Morning Post indicate that the businessman has now reappeared across the mainland border, and is “assisting investigations” over the Chinese stock market rout of 2015.
According to The New York Times, the mainland-born Xiao is a Canadian citizen and holds an Antiguan diplomatic passport. He is the chairman of the Tomorrow Group, an empire with shares in banks, insurance companies, and real estate, and has close ties to many powerful Chinese politicians, including President Xi Jinping: the Times reported that Xiao paid $2.4 million in 2013 to buy shares in an investment firm held by the sister and brother-in-law of President Xi.
The South China Morning Post reported that Xiao’s Tomorrow Group has since issued a (suspicious) statement on its official WeChat account: “I, Xiao Jianhua, am recuperating overseas now and all is good! Business is normal at Tomorrow Group!” From what and where Xiao may be “recuperating” is unclear. In a second statement, Xiao denies involvement in any activity harmful to the Communist Party: “Please don’t misunderstand – there is no such thing that I was kidnapped and taken back to the mainland.” However, reports now confirm that Xiao is, in fact, back in the mainland, and not “overseas”. These statements have since been deleted.
Xiao’s abrupt disappearance is heavily reminiscent of the abduction of five missing booksellers in late 2015. Both instances are indicative of China’s increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s political autonomy. Mainland agents whisking foreign citizens away from Hong Kong, which is outside Chinese government jurisdiction, are undeniably violating the “one country, two systems” doctrine that supposedly prohibits the Chinese police from operating in the city. In these coercive actions, Chinese authorities have shown that they show little regard for Hong Kong Basic Law.