Canadian officials say Beijing has barred them from attending the trial of Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua.
The Canadian embassy in China said in a statement to the BBC on Tuesday (July 5) that Canadian consular officials had “repeatedly requested” to observe the proceedings, and “we were denied by the Chinese authorities.”
The statement added that embassy officials were “closely monitoring the case” and would “continue to request the participation of consular staff.”
In early 2017, the news of Xiao Jianhua’s disappearance from a luxury hotel in Hong Kong shocked home and abroad. After more than five years, the Xiao Jianhua case is reported to start on Monday (July 4).
However, as with his mysterious disappearance, his trial remains extremely secret. Chinese authorities have neither released the charges against him nor the location of the trial. Overseas media reported that Xiao Jianhua’s trial was taking place in Shanghai, but Chinese state media had no news at all.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, asked about the Xiao Jianhua case at a regular news briefing on Monday, said he had “contacted relevant departments” but said he was still “waiting for their reply.”
Who is Xiao Jianhua?
Xiao Jianhua, born in 1971 in an ordinary teacher’s family in Nanxiahui Village, Anjiazhuang Town, Feicheng City, Shandong Province, was admitted to the Law Department of Peking University at the age of 15, became the chairman of the Peking University Student Union at the age of 18, and became the general manager of the listed company Huazi Industrial at the age of 27. At the age of 30 Control 4 listed companies.
In 2016, Xiao Jianhua and his wife Zhou Hongwen ranked 32nd on the Hurun Report with 40 billion yuan.
Xiao Jianhua acts in a low-key manner, and is best known as the head of the “Tomorrow Department”. He not only holds shares and holds dozens of listed companies, but also builds a complete financial industry chain covering securities, banking, insurance, trust, futures, funds, etc.
And it all started in 1996, when he was just 25 years old. In 1999 he founded Tomorrow Holdings.
Online information shows that Tomorrow Holdings is “one of the earliest companies engaged in equity investment in China, and is committed to building a respected and sustainable global investment institution”.
According to media reports in China, Tomorrow is a behemoth in the capital market, relying on strict internal confidentiality mechanisms, public relations teams, media control and other means to be invisible for a long time.
The outside world is widely believed to have built a huge financial empire in just 20 years thanks in large part to his political connections to the top.
On January 27, 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a permanent resident of Hong Kong and Canadian nationality, was taken away from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong in a wheelchair, which once became the focus of media attention.
After Xiao Jianhua was taken from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, his family filed a missing persons report with Hong Kong authorities, but withdrew the report a day later, saying they had “reconnected” with Xiao Jianhua.
Hong Kong police said surveillance footage from the scene showed Xiao Jianhua left the hotel under duress, but refused to release the footage.
Xiao Jianhua later issued a statement and put a statement on the front page of a Hong Kong newspaper that he was receiving treatment abroad. He also praised China‘s “rule of law” and said he was not kidnapped and brought to mainland China.
His company also issued statements on his behalf saying he was fine, though those statements were later deleted.
The mysterious whereabouts of billionaires in Hong Kong have caused shocks. This lost contact case raises sharp questions about the Chinese government’s “cross-border law enforcement” in Hong Kong, and deepens Hong Kong people’s concerns that they may be forcibly brought to the mainland for trial by Chinese police and national security.
In 2019, a large-scale “anti-extradition” protest march broke out in Hong Kong. The protests that started with the Hong Kong government’s revision of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance turned into clashes between the police and the people, which lasted for more than half a year.
Carrie Lam, the then chief executive of Hong Kong, later announced the suspension of the amendments, but the incident aroused the dissatisfaction of Hong Kong citizens with deep-seated problems in society and turned into the most serious political turmoil after the handover of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
After Xiao Jianhua was taken away, there was no official news of his whereabouts for several years. In 2020, “Tomorrow Department” confirmed that Xiao Jianhua assisted the government in restructuring the group in mainland China.
All parties speculate
Although Chinese courts have officially started hearing the Xiao Jianhua case, little is known about the case.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month, citing people familiar with the matter, that Xiao Jianhua could be charged with illegally taking public deposits and could be sentenced to five years or more in prison.
In 2018, Wu Xiaohui, the former chairman of Anbang, who was Deng Xiaoping’s grandson-in-law, was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court for fund-raising fraud and occupational embezzlement, and 10.5 billion yuan of property was confiscated.
The Xiao Jianhua case is as secret as many billionaire cases involving China‘s capital markets, for reasons that are closely related to the sensitive information he may have. A widely shared view is that he has knowledge of the secret wealth of the families of top Chinese officials.
The British “Financial Times” reported that Xiao Jianhua continued to build relationships with government officials and moved the company to a place where it could make more money. At that time, the capital market was just starting, and he became one of the first high-level financial circles with close ties to the political world. one.
The New York Times described Xiao Jianhua as actively courting the Communist Party elite, including the family of President Xi Jinping. Reports even described him as a middleman who helped powerful families make more money. Usually such middlemen would only work for one wealthy family, but Xiao Jianhua reportedly worked for multiple families.
In addition, there is a saying in the market that the Xiao Jianhua case is part of China‘s “Fox Hunting”. To prevent capital flight, the Chinese authorities must block the capital outflow of “financial predators” like Xiao Jianhua.