Xiao Jianhua: Chinese-Canadian tycoon faces trial in China without consular access, embassy says

Billionaire financier Xiao Jianhua, known for his close ties to some of China’s most powerful political families, disappeared in 2017 after he was arrested by Chinese security officers in his room at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel and taken away in mainland China.

The Canadian Embassy said consular officials were 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 of the Canadian citizen, Mr. Xiao Jianhua. Our presence was refused by the Chinese authorities,” the embassy said.

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

Xiao’s extrajudicial kidnapping came as part of a broader crackdown on corruption launched by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, which has ensnared scores of senior officials and executives of major Chinese companies.

Since then, Xiao has not been seen in public. Chinese authorities have not disclosed the charges against him or any other details of his case.

Xiao was one of China’s richest men and controlled the Tomorrow Group, a massive holding company with stakes in banks, insurers and property developers.

According to Hurun, who analyzes Chinese wealth, Xiao had a net worth of $6 billion and ranked 32nd on his 2016 rich list, a ranking equivalent to the Forbes list.

In February 2017, a person familiar with the situation told CNN there was a small fight between two dozen security officials and Xiao’s own security department, which usually has about eight bodyguards per shift. of work. The source asked to remain anonymous due to the politically sensitive nature of the matter.

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?

A Chinese-born Canadian citizen, Xiao was one of several Chinese tycoons who moved to Hong Kong and took up residence in private apartments at the 5-star Four Seasons Hotel during Xi’s crackdown on corporate excesses.

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

It has also fueled wider fears about the erosion of the city’s freedoms, as guaranteed by 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 to Lee Bo, a bookseller and British passport holder who disappeared from Hong Kong in 2015 and later ended up in Chinese custody. Five booksellers disappeared that year, all involved with publisher Mighty Current and its store Causeway Bay Books, which sold gossip titles about China’s elite.
These disappearances took place even before Hong Kong’s anti-government protests in 2019, which were initially sparked by a controversial extradition bill that proposed to allow Hong Kong to transfer fugitives from the city to court. from mainland China.
The government eventually shelved a bill to crack down on mass protests before Beijing imposes a sweeping national security law on the city in 2020. The law, which extends Beijing’s direct control over the city, grants mainland officials the power “to exercise jurisdiction” over cases that “jeopardize national security.”

The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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

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

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