China: Canadian diplomats banned from attending tycoon trial

Canadian diplomats have been denied access to the court in China where Chinese-Canadian tycoon Xiao Jianhua was being tried, the Canadian embassy said on Tuesday the day after the businessman's trial.

China: Canadian diplomats banned from attending tycoon trial

Canadian diplomats have been denied access to the court in China where Chinese-Canadian tycoon Xiao Jianhua was being tried, the Canadian embassy said on Tuesday the day after the businessman's trial.

• To read also: China: start of the trial of a Canadian tycoon who had disappeared in Hong Kong

The man had mysteriously disappeared in 2017 from the Hong Kong hotel where he lived. Reputed to be close to the top Chinese communist leaders, he had according to press reports been abducted by agents from Beijing.

Founder of the Tomorrow conglomerate, present in the banking, real estate and insurance sectors, Xiao Jianhua was at the time one of the richest men in China, with an estimated fortune of 6 billion dollars.

Since his disappearance, little information had filtered on the tycoon, considered a Canadian citizen by Ottawa, until the Canadian embassy confirmed on Monday that he was going to be tried the same day.

“Canada has made several requests to attend the trial. Our presence was refused by the Chinese authorities,” the embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.

Chinese authorities and media have so far remained silent on the case, which may be linked to President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign.

Asked about the trial on Monday, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said during a regular press briefing “not to be aware” of this file.

The alleged kidnapping of the billionaire in 2017 would have occurred in defiance of Hong Kong laws which then prohibited Chinese police from acting in the semi-autonomous territory.

His disappearance had caused a stir in Hong Kong, with some residents fearing they would be forcibly taken to mainland China, where the judicial system is sometimes opaque and influenced by the ruling Communist Party.

Those concerns were at the heart of major protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. They were sparked by opposition to a local government bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

The Xiao Jianhua case recalls the disappearance in 2015 of five Hong Kong booksellers, known for publishing books with salacious content on the Chinese political class.

All had disappeared to resurface in mainland China, in the hands of the authorities.

In response to the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, the central government in 2020 imposed a national security law on the territory. It has since allowed agents from mainland China to operate legally in the former British colony.

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