Saturday Star

China businesses jittery after leading tycoon disappears

- JULIE ZHU, VENUS WU and JAMES POMFRET

HONG KONG: The mysterious disappeara­nce from Hong Kong of Xiao Jianhua, a China-born billionair­e, has sent a chill through mainland business circles linked to the city, and some are looking to move their assets, say financiers, lawyers and Chinese businessme­n.

Reports that Xiao was abducted by Chinese agents from the luxury Four Seasons hotel have helped undermine confidence in the legal autonomy that has underpinne­d the economy.

Hong Kong police say Xiao crossed the border into China on January 27 through a checkpoint and are still investigat­ing the case.

China’s ministry of state security, foreign ministry and public security bureau have so far not responded to Reuters requests for comment on whether Chinese agents were involved in Xiao’s disappeara­nce.

A source close to Xiao, who holds a Canadian passport, said he is now in an unspecifie­d location in China and Xiao’s wife and brother had “fled” Hong Kong to Canada.

It wasn’t possible to contact Xiao’s relatives. The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong said they had no further informatio­n on the family.

A second source close to Xiao said on Thursday he was still able to get in touch with the tycoon, with “some difficulti­es”.

Shortly after his disappeara­nce a local newspaper ad purporting to be from Xiao himself said he hadn’t been abducted but was seeking medical treatment “outside the country”.

Memories are still fresh in Hong Kong of the abduction last year of five men linked to a book publisher that specialise­d in gossip about China’s leaders.

Three were detained while in China, but two with foreign passports were taken there against their will from Thailand and Hong Kong.

A report on China’s private wealth market, conducted jointly by China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company in mid 2015, found 71% of about 2 800 Chinese highnet-worth individual­s chose Hong Kong as their favourite offshore investment destinatio­n – Reuters

 ??  ?? China-born billionair­e Xioa Jianhua.
China-born billionair­e Xioa Jianhua.

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