Chinese-Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua (肖建華), who went missing in Hong Kong five years ago, was due to go on trial in China yesterday, the Canadian embassy in Beijing said.
China-born Xiao, known to have links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) elite, has not been seen in public since 2017 after he was investigated amid a state-led conglomerate crackdown. The specifics of the probe have not been disclosed by officials.
Xiao was whisked away in a wheelchair from a luxury Hong Kong hotel in the early hours with his head covered, a source close to the tycoon said at the time.
“Global Affairs Canada, our home office, is aware that a trial in the case of Canadian citizen Mr Xiao Jianhua will take place today,” a Canadian embassy official said by telephone in a readout of a statement from Ottawa.
“Canadian consular officials are monitoring this case closely, providing consular services to his family and continue to press for consular access,” the official said.
Asked about the trial at a media briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) yesterday said that he was not aware of the situation.
Xiao was ranked 32nd on the 2016 Hurun China rich list, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, with an estimated net worth of US$5.97 billion at the time.
At the center of Xiao’s empire is the financial group Tomorrow Holdings Co. In July 2020, nine of the group’s related institutions were seized by Chinese regulators as part of a crackdown on risks posed by financial conglomerates.
Last year, regulators extended the one-year take-over period of the nine financial enterprises by another year to “further promote risk disposal work and defuse financial risks.” The extended custody is set to end on July 16.
The seizures were preceded by a takeover of Baoshang Bank in 2019, a lender once controlled by Tomorrow, by regulators, citing severe credit risks.
The lender, which had operated nationwide, was revamped into a much smaller lender back in its home region of Inner Mongolia in northern China.
In recent years, a number of executives at big Chinese companies have been subject to investigation or prosecution amid a broader crackdown on corruption spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) that has also ensnared politicians and bankers.
Among those who fell from grace was Jiang Jiemin (蔣潔敏), former head of China National Petroleum Corp, who in 2015 was sentenced to 16 years for bribery and abuse of power.
In 2017, Ai Baojun (艾寶俊), a former chairman of Baoshan Iron and Steel who was vice mayor of Shanghai from 2012 to 2015, was sentenced to 17 years in jail for bribery and graft.
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