Xiao Jianhua, the Chinese billionaire reportedly abducted from Hong Kong last Friday, has issued a statement of the front page of a local newspaper refuting the allegation.
The statement claimed he was not abducted to the mainland as the Chinese government is civilised. “I am thankful for the concern from all sectors. I have been recovering from an illness outside the country,” the statement read. It was on the front page of Wednesday’s Ming Pao newspaper and issued under Xiao’s name – a financier who has ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The statement was the same as the one posted on the WeChat account of Xiao’s Tomorrow Group on Tuesday. However, all the content of the account has been removed owing to a “violation of regulations upon large number of complaints.”
Xiao’s statement also said he is a “patriotic overseas Chinese” who loves the Communist Party and the country. He said he has never participated in anything the hurt the country’s interest and government image, and he has never supported any opposition forces and organisations.
“I think the Chinese government is a civilised, rule-of-law government, do not be mistaken! There was no such case of me being abducted to the mainland,” the statement said.
He claimed he is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Hong Kong, and is the owner of a diplomatic passport.
Xiao was reportedly living in Four Seasons Hotel for a long period of time under the protection of security guards, after coming to Hong Kong in 2014 – two years after Xi launched his anti-corruption campaign. Xiao had been acting as a financier for the Chinese ruling class.
The Financial Times cited an unnamed person familiar with the investigation as saying that Xiao was led away from an apartment at the hotel by Chinese security agents.
Hong Kong police confirmed they had received a “request for assistance” concerning a mainland citizen on Saturday, when asked by media about Xiao, but a family member requested the report be withdrawn the next day, saying the reported person had contacted them and was safe.
The police also confirmed the person had entered the mainland through a Hong Kong boundary control point.
Local public broadcaster RTHK and newspaper Sing Tao Daily both cited unnamed sources as saying that Xiao was not a Hong Kong permanent resident, and he was not a holder of the Hong Kong SAR passport. They said he only stayed in Hong Kong for short time for work.
A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told The Globe and Mail that Canada was aware of the reports and consular officials were in contact with authorities to gather additional information and provide assistance.
The spokesman said further details cannot be released for privacy reasons.
Lawmaker Starry Lee said on Wednesday that she could not see how the incident involved cross-border law enforcement by Chinese agents.
Lee, the chairwoman of the largest pro-Beijing party said that, after the incident concerning Lee Bo in 2015, society had been highly concerned over the issue. However, she would not speculate over the incident as there was not enough public information. She said she hoped the communication mechanism between Hong Kong and China could be stepped up, as she believed improvements were still under discussion.
The bookseller Lee Bo disappeared from Hong Kong and later showed up in China claiming he voluntarily returned to aid an investigation over the delivery of “banned” books from the Causeway Bay Books store into the mainland.
Another bookseller at the store, Lam Wing-kee, who was kidnapped in China but ultimately escaped surveillance, said the mainland authorities should go through Hong Kong’s judicial system if they want to arrest suspects living in the city. He said it would be a great disrespect to the system for mainland authorities to use any means to take away suspects without their consent.
“The central government has completely ignored Hong Kong’s rules and regulations – similar incidents will come again and again. The Hong Kong government can only issue a statement, but Hongkongers are without safety,” he told Apple Daily. He urged Hongkongers to speak out in order to raise international concern.
Lawmaker Alvin Yeung, also leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party, said the incident was more serious than the case of Lee Bo, in that it was “obviously abduction.”
“The Hong Kong authorities must give the public a convincing explanation as soon as possible,” he said.
Woo Kwok-hing, a chief executive race contender, said there were not enough facts to fully understand the incident, but it would not be appropriate if the incident involved cross-border law enforcement.
“If I am the chief executive, I would enquire through appropriate channels, and demand an investigation by the relevant authorities,” he said. “If someone enforced the law across the border, it should be handled appropriately.”