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Canadian diplomats denied access to tycoon’s trial in China: embassy

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Beijing (AFP) – Canadian diplomats have been denied access to the trial of Canadian-Chinese tycoon Xiao Jianhua in China, the Ottawa embassy in Beijing said in a statement on Tuesday, the day after the businessman’s trial.

Xiao, one of China’s wealthiest people at the time of his alleged abduction from a Hong Kong hotel in 2017, is believed to have had close ties to the upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party.

Nothing more was known about the tycoon, who is a Canadian citizen, since his disappearance until the embassy confirmed on Monday that he faced trial.

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

Chinese authorities have so far remained silent on the case, which is believed to be linked to an anti-corruption campaign championed by President Xi Jinping since coming to power.

Asked about the trial on Monday, a Foreign Ministry official said he was “unaware of the situation”.

Xiao’s alleged abduction came at a time when mainland Chinese operatives were not allowed to operate in Hong Kong, and it sparked fear in the city of residents being forcibly disappeared.

Those fears were at the heart of the massive pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019, sparked by a government bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China’s opaque, Communist Party-controlled justice system.

Xiao’s disappearance also follows the alleged abduction from mainland police custody of five people working for a bookstore that published salacious headlines about China’s leaders.

The booksellers later appeared on mainland Chinese television, admitting to a variety of crimes.

In response to the 2019 protests, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020.

This law allowed its security agencies to operate in the city and overturned the legal firewall between mainland and Hong Kong courts.