Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Postings about missing Chinese billionaire deleted

Reuters, HONG KONG

Scores of Chinese social media postings about a well-connected billionaire who went missing from a Hong Kong hotel have been deleted, pointing to what appears to be heightened sensitivity in Beijing over the case of Xiao Jianhua (肖建華).

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Xiao, one of China’s richest men, who has close ties to some of its leaders and their relatives. He was last seen at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel late last month, with some media saying he was abducted and taken to China.

The case has echoes of the disappearance of five men linked to a Hong Kong publishing house and bookstore more than a year ago who had published books critical of China’s leaders.

The booksellers’ case raised concern about interference by Beijing in Hong Kong and the erosion of its freedoms, guaranteed under a 1997 deal that returned the former British colony to Chinese rule.

Authorities in Beijing have declined to comment on Xiao’s case.

Hong Kong’s government has also not commented, but the territory’s police said that he crossed the border into China and they are investigating.

After Xiao’s disappearance, a statement from him appeared on his company’s verified WeChat account saying he had not been abducted and had not been taken to China, adding that he was “currently abroad being medically treated.”

When news of Xiao’s disappearance in began breaking early last week, searches on Chinese search engines and social media for him generated many results, mostly links to reports related to statements he had issued via his company, Tomorrow Holdings, a financial group in Beijing.

However, those posts and most reports related to Xiao have disappeared, with search results only bringing up reports about him from several weeks earlier.

According to Freewechat.com, which tracks censored or deleted posts on China’s biggest social network, WeChat, more than 40 articles with the keyword Xiao Jianhua had been censored since Monday last week.

A similar number of reports with the word mingtianxi, which refers to Tomorrow Group and its subsidiaries, were also deleted.

Tencent Holdings, which operates WeChat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for Sina, which runs Sina Weibo, told reporters that it censors and deletes posts according to its code of conduct.

However, the spokesman declined to comment on any deleted posts related to Xiao and his business ties.

More social media posts purportedly detailing Xiao’s business links with high-profile companies and senior leaders were also deleted over the weekend.

The nation’s Internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

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