HONG KONG (Reuters) - A missing China-born billionaire was quoted by state media on Tuesday as saying he had not been abducted from Hong Kong by mainland Chinese agents as some news outlets had reported but was receiving medical treatment.
Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Xiao Jianhua, who 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 Xiaoxi, 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 look into the matter.
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 $5.97 billion.
While Xiao’s circumstances remain unclear, some media outlets have drawn parallels with the disappearance more than a year ago of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who had published 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.
Reporting by Hong Kong Newsroom, additional reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Cynthia Osterman