January 29, 2023

Financial billionaire Xiao Jianhua, known for his close ties to some of China’s most powerful political families, disappeared in 2017 after Chinese security agents kidnapped him from his room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong and took him to mainland China.

The Canadian embassy said consulate officials are closely monitoring Xiao’s case and providing consular services to his family, although it did not confirm a trial date.

“Canada has made several requests to attend the trial proceedings of Canadian citizen Xiao Jianhua. The Chinese authorities have refused our attendance,” the embassy said.

Citing the embassy, ​​Reuters previously reported that Xiao’s trial was scheduled to start on Monday.

Xiao’s extrajudicial kidnapping came amid a broader crackdown on corruption launched by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, which is hunting a large number of senior officials and CEOs of major Chinese companies.

Since then, Xiao has not been seen in public. The Chinese authorities did not disclose the charges against him or any other details related to his case.

Xiao was one of the richest men in China and controlled the Tomorrow Group, a huge holding company with stakes in banks, insurance companies and real estate developers.

According to Huron, who analyzes Chinese wealth, Xiao’s net worth was $6 billion and she ranked 32 on the 2016 Rich List, a periodic table equivalent to Forbes’ list.

In February 2017, a person familiar with the situation told CNN that there was a small quarrel between two dozen security officials and Xiao’s private security data, which usually involved about eight bodyguards per shift. The source requested anonymity due to the politically sensitive nature of the case.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was unaware of the situation when asked about Xiao’s trial at a press conference on Monday.

Who is Xiao Jinhua?

Xiao, a Canadian citizen born in China, was one of a number of Chinese business leaders who moved to Hong Kong and stayed in private apartments at the five-star Four Seasons Hotel during Xi’s crackdown on corporate excesses.

Xiao’s disappearance sent shockwaves through Hong Kong’s elite business community, as it was widely interpreted as a sign that the city was no longer beyond the reach of mainland security services.

It also raised broader concerns about the erosion of the city’s freedoms, as guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” policy agreed as part of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Xiao’s case has drawn comparisons with Li Bo, a bookseller and British passport holder who disappeared from Hong Kong in 2015 and later appeared in Chinese custody. Five booksellers went missing that year, all involved with publisher Mighty Current and his store Causeway Bay Books, which sold gossip titles about China’s elite.
These disappearances occurred even before anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, which were initially triggered by a controversial extradition bill that proposed allowing Hong Kong to transfer fugitives in the city to China’s main courts.
The government eventually suspended the bill on suppressing mass protests before Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the city in 2020. The law, which expands Beijing’s direct control over the city, gives mainland officials the power to “exercise jurisdiction” over cases that “endanger the city”. National security at risk.”

The law criminalizes secession, sabotage, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Critics say the law has been used to silence all opposition against the Hong Kong government, which has repeatedly defended the legislation, saying it has brought the city back to stability.

CNN’s Stephen Jiang and Katie Hunt contributed to this story.

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