Missing Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was cited by mainland state media on Tuesday as saying he hadn’t been abducted from Hong Kong by Chinese agents as some media had reported, but was receiving medical attention abroad.
Xiao was last seen in Hong Kong on Friday when some overseas Chinese news outlets reported he was taken by Chinese agents from the luxury Four Seasons hotel.
Chinese news portal Cankao, published by the official Xinhua news agency, cited Xiao’s Beijing-based Tomorrow Group as saying in a statement on its verified WeChat account that the billionaire had “not been abducted” and had not been taken to mainland China.
It added he was “currently abroad being medically treated.”
The statement, dated Tuesday, was no longer available on the WeChat account when Reuters tried to verify it.
It did not disclose where Xiao was, nor where he was receiving treatment. The statement also cited Xiao, who is in his mid-40s, as saying that he was a Canadian citizen, a Hong Kong resident and holds a diplomatic passport.
A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada was aware of the reports and consular officials were in contact with authorities to gather additional information and provide assistance. Further details cannot be released for privacy reasons, said spokesman Joseph Pickerill.
When contacted about Xiao‘s case, the Hong Kong police said a report had been filed on Jan. 28, an investigation was opened into the matter and Chinese authorities had been approached to ascertain his “situation in mainland China.”
The police did not identify Xiao by name, but said “family members” requested the case be closed a day later. Police will continue to investigate.
Xiao, who runs financial group Tomorrow Holdings, is ranked 32nd on the 2016 Hurun China rich list, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, with a net worth of US$5.97 billion.
While Xiao‘s circumstances remain unclear, some media outlets have drawn parallels with the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based publishers who had released books critical of China’s leaders.
Calls to the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing went unanswered with China in the middle of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
It was not immediately clear how Xiao had left Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said in a statement to Reuters police were investigating.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily said Tuesday that Xiao had been taken over the border between Hong Kong and mainland China with his wife, who then returned and reported the case to police and media. She then said Xiao had contacted her and did not want to exaggerate the incident, according to the report.
The reports add to fears that Chinese authorities are increasingly interfering in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. It is against Hong Kong’s constitution for mainland agents to operate in the territory.
But after the disappearance of five individuals in the publishing industry in 2015, there were widespread accusations those restrictions had been breached as one of the men, Lee Bo, went missing from Hong Kong. All five were involved in publishing salacious titles about the Chinese leadership and they reappeared on the mainland.
Xiao is reported to have come to Hong Kong in 2014, two years after Chinese President Xi Jinping started a much-publicised anti-corruption drive. He has denied that he was ever the target of an investigation.
Chinese-language news site Boxun said Xiao had been tipped off that a special investigative unit was about to abduct him when he was still in mainland China.