Something strange has been happening in China over the past two years. During that period, dozens of Chinese CEOs, millionaires and even a few billionaires have vanished in what are being called “state-sanctioned abductions” conducted by Chinese authorities.
Most of these company heads and business moguls have eventually resurfaced without giving any explanation, while others have ended up behind bars – a few have also managed to mysteriously fall out of buildings.
The latest such case involves a prominent Chinese-born billionaire named Xiao Jianhua, who was kidnapped in Hong Kong on January 27, by security agents from the Chinese mainland.
Security footage from the Hong Kong Four Seasons hotel where Xiao resides allegedly shows him being led away without signs of a struggle.
Things become a little fuzzy after that. Mr. Xiao is apparently now in mainland China and not in custody, but he has not acknowledged that any abduction took place. In fact, there have only been a couple of rather suspect statements posted on his financial services firm Tomorrow Group’s WeChat account – which were later deleted – and a front-page ad posted in the newspaper Ming Pao that was purportedly penned by Mr. Xiao.
One of the deleted WeChat posts read: “Regarding the reports on me in recent days, I have to say that I, Xiao Jianhua, have been recovering from an illness outside the country.”
The front-page Ming Pao ad, which appeared on Saturday, January 28, read:
“Let there be no misunderstanding! It’s not true that I’ve been abducted and taken back to the mainland. I’m a patriotic Overseas Chinese and I’ve always loved the (ruling Communist) party and the country.”
Hong Kong police are investigating the incident, despite the fears of Xiao’s family that any intervention may endanger his safety.
Reportedly, Xiao’s wife fled to Japan after reporting the incident and later retracting her report.
“Mr Xiao is the most high-profile of a long list of moguls and executives from at least 34 Chinese companies to be seized in bizarre circumstances over the past year alone.
“Their disappearances are believed to be linked to China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, which some critics believe is being used to target President Xi Jinping’s political opponents.”
Xiao had close ties to the Chinese leadership, including President Xi, but may have fallen from favor in recent years. Some have speculated that he has been targeted because of “potentially embarrassing details” he may possess regarding powerful business figures in China.
Whatever the reasons behind this latest abduction, a storm of controversy has been stirred regarding China’s actions in Hong Kong, which may be in violation of the law.
“The possibility that police from mainland China seized Xiao and took him back across the border is a politically sensitive issue in Hong Kong, which is part of China but has a separate legal system.
“Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the mini-constitution drawn up in consultation with the British before the 1997 return to China — prohibits Chinese law enforcement authorities from operating independently in the city.”
Xiao’s case is similar to that of Hong Kong bookseller, Lee Bo, who vanished in January 2016, reappearing in mainland China a few months later, insisting he entered the country “voluntarily.”
Mr. Bo, who holds a British passport, was one of five booksellers who were abducted by the Chinese during 2015 and 2016. The five were reportedly involved in a plan to publish a series of books that would have cast a negative light on the Chinese leadership, including one about President Xi’s early love life.
The Chinese seem ever more emboldened in their willingness to break international treaties and kidnap whomever they deem to be a threat to their power – including even those who are rich and powerful themselves.