China Billionaire’s Disappearance in Hong Kong Revives Autonomy Concerns

The uncertain fate of Xiao Jianhua, a China-born billionaire last seen at a luxury Hong Kong hotel a week ago, has raised fresh fears about the city’s autonomy amid media reports he may have been abducted by Chinese agents.

A Hong Kong government source said key details on Xiao’s case still needed to be clarified, but the initial signs were “worrying”.

The Financial Times reported that Xiao, who runs Tomorrow Holdings, a financial group headquartered in Beijing, was abducted from the Four Seasons hotel by Chinese public security agents and taken to the mainland.

Xiao, who has close ties to senior Chinese officials and their relatives, was ranked 32nd on the 2016 Hurun China rich list, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, with a net worth of $5.97 billion.

Calls to Xiao’s company in Beijing went unanswered, but a full front-page advertisement published in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper on Wednesday (February 1) under Xiao’s name said he was seeking medical treatment “outside the country” and had not been abducted.

The ad also burnished Xiao’s patriotic credentials.

“I’ve always loved the (Chinese Communist) Party, the country, and have never done anything to harm the country’s interests,” Xiao wrote.

The Hong Kong police said in a statement to Reuters that Xiao had entered mainland China through a border checkpoint on January 27 and that they were seeking more information on the case from Chinese authorities.

There are conflicting accounts of Xiao’s whereabouts, but memories are fresh in Hong Kong of the abduction last year of five staff who worked for a local bookseller that published gossip on China’s leaders.

Three of the staff were detained while in China, but two with foreign passports were taken there against their will from Thailand and Hong Kong.

Those disappearances provoked outrage that Beijing was flouting Hong Kong’s constitution, which gives Chinese authorities no right to conduct law enforcement activities in the city, a largely self-governing territory since its return to China from British rule in 1997.