Canadian government: Tycoon in China must stand trial

BEIJING — A Canadian-born Canadian magnate is on trial in China, the Canadian government said Monday, five years after he disappeared from Hong Kong during a crackdown on corruption.

Xiao Jianhua would face trial Monday, a government statement said. It said Canadian diplomats “are closely monitoring this matter” and provided unspecified services to Xiao’s family. It said no other information would be released due to privacy concerns.

Xiao, the founder of Tomorrow Group, disappeared from a hotel in Hong Kong in January 2017 amid an increase in prosecutions against Chinese businessmen accused of bribery and other misconduct. Authorities have never confirmed whether Xiao was detained or disclosed possible charges.

A foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday he was not aware of the situation.

Xiao’s disappearance came as the ruling Communist Party stepped up its efforts to pressure people who wanted to be involved in corruption cases to return from abroad to face charges. It fueled fears that Beijing would kidnap people abroad. At the time, Chinese police were prohibited from operating in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system.

The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping has since tightened control over Hong Kong, leading to complaints that it violated its promised autonomy when the territory returned to China in 1997. The ruling party imposed a national security law in 2020 and has jailed pro-democracy activists.

In 2015, five people associated with a Hong Kong publishing house that sold books critical of Chinese leaders disappeared from the territory and reappeared on the mainland.

Before his disappearance, Xiao had estimated a fortune at $6 billion, according to the Hurun report, which tracks China’s wealthy.

An official of the Chinese securities regulator said in February 2017 that Chinese people abroad accused of misconduct would be “captured and sent back”.

Hong Kong police have been investigating Xiao’s disappearance and said the person had crossed the border into the mainland. But an advertisement in the Ming Pao newspaper the same week in Xiao’s name denied that he had been taken against his will.

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