It may be Chinese New Year, but there is no rest for the wicked. Nor does it seem there is any escape for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s supposed adversaries. Overseas Chinese media reported that mainland agents took Xiao Jianhua, 46, the founder of Beijing-based Tomorrow Group, from Hong Kong on Friday.
Mingjing News, a New York-based website covering Chinese political rumors, reported that an unnamed billionaire was detained by mainland agents in Hong Kong on Friday night. Tomorrow Group is understood to have extensive ties with Chinese politicians, including Xi, and have investments in a range of industries on the mainland.
The saga deepened when Tomorrow Group issued two statements via its social media WeChat platform. The first statement was issued on Monday, and stated: “I, Xiao Jianhua, am recuperating overseas now and all is good! Business is normal at Tomorrow Group! Thanks all for the concern!”
A second statement was released on Tuesday stating that the tycoon had not been “captured” and taken back to the mainland. It continued, quoting Xiao as saying that as a Canadian citizen he enjoyed the consular protection of Canada, as well as protection in Hong Kong as a Hong Kong permanent resident.
“I have diplomatic protection as I hold a diplomatic passport. Please don’t worry about me,” said Xiao, according to the statement.
But the two statements, along with all posts by the group, have since been removed from the company’s WeChat account, according to the South China Morning Post. This in itself raises more alarm bells.
It is not the first time Xiao has been under the political spotlight. In 2014, it was reported by another foreign Chinese news site that Tomorrow Group had entered into a deal to acquire Chinese state assets for a fraction of the price of the official valuation, and that Xiao was under investigation by authorities. It was reported at the time that Xi Jinping’s sister was an investor in one of Xiao’s companies. All allegations were denied by Xiao.
This most recent incident comes almost a year after the widely publicized abduction of five Hong Kong based-booksellers. The men inexplicably turned up in China’s prisons, without passing through the city’s stringent immigration checkpoints. No clear explanation has been provided by either the Chinese or Hong Kong authorities.
Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun, a Legislative Council security panel member, said the rule of law in Hong Kong would be damaged if Xiao had indeed been taken from Hong Kong by mainland agents. Chinese authorities have no jurisdiction in Hong Kong.