China turning into a cowboy country

Beijing hardens its crackdown on critics and they don't seem to be very concerned about what the world thinks of them

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Not since the tussle over the issue of Terrexes with Singapore, has China begun hogging the limelight – all apparently for reasons the world can make little sense of – but this time over some missing critics.

In its latest dare the BBC has reported the disappearance of tycoon Xiao Jianhua. The current case recalls the instances of the missing Hong Kong publishers who were secreted away to mainland China in 2015 only to reappear again.

In the present case which was broken by Mingjing News, a New York-based site that specialises in Chinese politics, the site reported of an unnamed Chinese billionaire who after he was arrested in Hong Kong was taken to mainland China by Chinese police and state security officials.

The case of the missing billionaire whose business ventures was reportedly in financial services on 29th January led to a flurry of frantic enquiries from family members, the Hong Kong police and concerned well-wishers.

The case bears a chilling and eerie resemblance to the that of the missing booksellers Lui Bo, Cheung Jiping, Gui Minhai, Lam Wing Kee, and Lee Bo, who were all arrested without any basis by Chinese security officials and forced to make choreographed television confessions. Lee Bo appeared in a separate interview denying he was ever abducted and saying he had been helping investigations. All, except for Gui, have since returned to Hong Kong.

Most have kept a low profile except Lam Wing Kee, who said last year he had been kidnapped and forced to make the confession.

It is now believed that the China-born tycoon denied that he moved to Hong Kong to avoid a Chinese government corruption investigation.

The circuitous run of statements and counter statements have only deepened the mystery over the disappearance of Xiao. According to the report, the businessman apparently issued a statement on its official account on messaging app Wechat.

“I, Xiao Jianhua, am overseas receiving medical treatment,” said the announcement, according to Hong Kong media.”Everything is fine. It’s business as usual at Tomorrow,” said the statement.

The message seems to contradict the Hong Kong police report that Mr Xiao had returned to China. On Tuesday, the company issued yet another statement, reportedly saying Mr Xiao was a patriot and a Communist Party stalwart. It claimed he had not been kidnapped.

In fact, the statement said Mr Xiao, who was born in China, was also a Canadian citizen and a permanent Hong Kong resident, and that he enjoyed the legal protection of both, further adding to the shroud of uncertainty. If fiction stranger than the truth, both statements soon vanished.

In related developments Tuesday’s statement later came out as a front-page advertisement on Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao on Wednesday with the Canadian government telling BBC News that it was aware of the case, and that consular officials were gathering more information.

With so many unanswered questions rumours are bubbling that Mr Xiao’s disappearance had something to do with China’s drive to stamp out graft in the mainland.

According to China Digital Times, China’s state apparatus issued a censorship order to delete all information regarding this case.

The latest case will now test China ever more stringently than ever and if there is one thing can be gleaned from this latest episode it is that China cares less about what the rest of the world thinks of her actions.