The mystery surrounding Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua became cloudier this week after he reportedly told his wife to close his missing person case. Hong Kong police say the woman complied and called the authorities to close the case, as she believed he was safe.
However, his whereabouts are still unknown. He was last seen last week in the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong. According to Chinese media, he was escorted out of that hotel by police and taken to an undisclosed location on the mainland.
To add to the mystery, the Ming Pao newspaper on Saturday ran a front-page ad supposedly put out by Xiao indicating he was safe.
“Let there be no misunderstanding!” the advertisement read, “it’s not true that I’ve been abducted and taken back to the mainland.”
“I’m a patriotic overseas Chinese and I’ve always loved the party and the country,” it added.
Considered one of China’s richest men, he runs the financial services company Tomorrow Group. The firm’s social media page also ran posts about his safety. “Regarding the reports on me in recent days, I have to say that I, Xiao Jianhua, have been recovering from an illness outside the country,” one of the posts read before being taken down suddenly.
The New York Times recently cited an anonymous source who claimed he was jailed in the country.
The case raised questions about how independent the autonomous Hong Kong’s judiciary is from the mainland. It echoes that of Le Bo, a bookseller and British passport holder who went missing in Hong Kong in January 2016 before turning up in China. Bo published a book with material critical of the Chinese government. The Communist regime is known for having one of the most heavily censored media outlets in the world, and it has been criticized by rights groups for suppression of speech.
Xiao, however, isn’t a vocal critic of Beijing. In fact, he gained the party’s trust after opposing the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. In his line of work, he’s handled the money of several Party elites including family members of President Xi Jinping – who is now running a harsh anti-corruption campaign that’s also creating tension within his own party.