Xiao Jianhua: Chinese-Canadian tycoon to face trial in China without access to consulate, embassy says

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

The Canadian Embassy said consular officials are closely monitoring Xiao’s case and providing consular services to his family, although they did not confirm the date of the trial.

“Canada has made several requests to participate in the trial of Canadian citizen Mr. Xiao Jianhua. The Chinese authorities refused to participate,” the embassy said.

Reuters, citing the embassy, ​​previously reported that Xiao’s trial was due to begin on Monday.

Xiao’s extrajudicial kidnapping comes amid a broader anti-corruption crackdown launched by Chinese leader Xi Jinping that has lured scores of high-ranking officials and CEOs of large Chinese companies into a trap.

Since then, Xiao has not appeared 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 large holding company with stakes in banks, insurance companies and real estate developers.

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

In February 2017, a person familiar with the situation told CNN that there had been a small scuffle between two dozen security personnel and Xiao’s own security team, which usually has about eight bodyguards per shift. The source asked not to be named 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?

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

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

It also raised wider concerns about the erosion of the city’s freedoms guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” policy negotiated as part of China’s handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

Xiao’s case is compared to Li Bo, bookseller and a British passport holder who disappeared from Hong Kong in 2015 and later ended up in Chinese custody. Five booksellers went missing that year they were all associated with Mighty Current and its Causeway Bay Books, which sold gossip about the Chinese elite.
These disappearances predate the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which were originally sparked by controversial extradition bill it proposed allowing Hong Kong to hand over fugitives in the city to mainland Chinese courts.
The government in the end suspended bill to suppress mass protests before Beijing introduced sweeping national security law over the city in 2020. The law, which expands Beijing’s direct control over the city, empowers mainland officials to “exercise jurisdiction” over cases that “endanger national security.”

The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers, and provides for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

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

Steven Jiang and Cathy Hunt of CNN contributed to this story.