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Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-Canadian mogul who was reportedly seized from Hong Kong with little explanation in 2017, is set to stand trial in China on Monday, Canada’s embassy in Beijing told Forbes in a statement, days after Communist Party leaders celebrated the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover and dismissed criticism about the eroding freedoms they promised to protect.
Canada’s embassy to China told Forbes it was aware a trial involving Xiao will take place on Monday.
Consular officials are monitoring the case “closely,” are providing support to Xiao’s family and are pushing for consular access, the statement added.
The embassy would not provide further details on the trial or Xiao for privacy reasons.
Xiao, who controlled the Tomorrow Group conglomerate and had strong ties to the family of Communist party leaders, has not been seen in public since 2017 after Chinese police reportedly abducted him from a Hong Kong hotel and rushed him across the border to mainland China.
It is unclear what charges Xiao might face and Chinese officials have been quiet on the matter since he went missing in 2017.
According to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, prosecutors plan to charge Xiao with illegally collecting public deposits, a crime that “can carry a prison sentence of five years or more.”
The disappearance of Xiao, at the time one of China’s richest men, was reportedly tied to an expansive anti-corruption campaign waged by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which critics say is more about consolidating power than stamping out corruption. Little has been heard from or about Xiao since he went missing and his business empire has now been unwound. According to the Guardian, Xiao denied he had been abducted in two social media posts on his company’s account, though these have both been deleted and there are many unknowns surrounding his disappearance. The incident firmly dismissed the notion that China’s wealthy elite were beyond the reach of Beijing. It also raised profound questions about the independence and future of Hong Kong amid a spate of disappearances feared to be the extraterritorial work of Chinese agents. At the time of Xiao’s disappearance, only Hong Kong police were able to legally operate in the city. Beijing has since pushed through a sweeping security law that gives Beijing broad powers to crack down on dissent in the city and critics say has eroded freedoms China promised to protect.
Disappearing Billionaires: Jack Ma And Other Chinese Moguls Who Have Mysteriously Dropped Off The Radar (Forbes)
China Is Dismantling the Empire of a Vanished Tycoon (NYT)