World

He pledges loyalty to China in front-page newspaper ad

Hong Kong billionaire said to be abducted by Chinese police

A China-born billionaire who took out an ad to say he has not been kidnapped has been arrested, the New York Times reported.

The report quoted a person close to businessman Xiao Jianhua, who has close financial ties with some of the country's most powerful families, as saying that Mr Xiao was taken by the Chinese police from his apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong late last week.

He was then spirited across the border, said the source yesterday.

Mr Xiao, a Canadian citizen who had been missing since last Friday, is apparently safe, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The mystery deepened further yesterday after a front-page newspaper advertisement appeared in his name pledging loyalty to China, reported AFP.

The advertisement in Hong Kong's Ming Pao, attributed to Mr Xiao, said he had "always loved the (ruling Communist) party and the country" and would soon meet the media.

"I personally believe the Chinese government is civilised and has rule of law," the advert read. "I have not been kidnapped."

DENIAL

Mr Xiao insisted he was being treated for an illness overseas, repeating a denial he had been abducted that had been published on his company's WeChat account on Monday.

The founder of Beijing-based Tomorrow Group, Mr Xiao had previously denied allegations that he fled to Hong Kong in 2014 to escape a corruption crackdown by President Xi Jinping.

He is reported to have acted as a broker for the Chinese leadership, including for the family of President Xi.

It is illegal for mainland agents to operate in Hong Kong, but the disappearance of five of the city's booksellers known for publishing salacious titles about Beijing's leadership in 2015 prompted widespread criticism that China had overstepped that line.

One of the men, Mr Lee Bo, vanished from Hong Kong, triggering international condemnation and local protests that the city's autonomy and rule of law was under threat.

Mr Lee had always insisted he had gone over the border voluntarily.

"After the Lee Bo fiasco, people are very concerned about whether Hong Kong residents, or people lawfully staying in Hong Kong will be protected," Mr James To of the Democratic Party told AFP.

Mr To said there was a "credible suspicion" that Hong Kong's semi-autonomous "one country, two systems" deal had been breached.

The Financial Times reported Mr Xiao had been led away by Chinese public security agents from an apartment at the harbourfront Four Seasons hotel.

Other reports in local media said Mr Xiao had been staying at the hotel long-term, protected by female bodyguards.

The hotel said there was an "active investigation" yesterday, and that they could not comment further.

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