The Canadian government said on Monday that a Chinese-born Canadian magnate is on trial in China, five years after he disappeared from Hong Kong during an anti-corruption campaign.
A government statement said Xiao Jianhua was scheduled to appear for trial on Monday. She said Canadian diplomats “are watching this case closely” and have provided unspecified services to Xiao’s family. She said no further information would be disclosed due to privacy considerations.
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Xiao, the founder of the Tomorrow Group, disappeared from a hotel in Hong Kong in January 2017 amid mounting prosecutions of Chinese businessmen accused of bribery and misconduct. The authorities have never confirmed whether Xiao was arrested or revealed possible charges.
On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was not aware of the situation.
Xiao’s disappearance came as the ruling Communist Party intensified its efforts to pressure those wanted in corruption cases to return from abroad for trial. It has raised concerns that Beijing might kidnap people abroad. At the time, Chinese police were banned from operating in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system.
The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping has since tightened its control over Hong Kong, prompting complaints that it is violating the autonomy it promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997. The ruling party imposed a national security law in 2020 and jailed pro-democracy activists.
In 2015, five people linked to a Hong Kong publishing company that sold books critical of Chinese leaders disappeared from the territory and resurfaced on the mainland.
Before his disappearance, Xiao’s fortune was estimated at $6 billion, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks China’s wealthy.
An official with China’s securities regulator said in February 2017 that overseas Chinese accused of misconduct would be “caught and sent back.”
Hong Kong police investigated Xiao’s disappearance and said the person had crossed the border into the mainland. But an advertisement in the Ming Pao newspaper in Xiao’s name in the same week denied that it had been taken against his will.