DIVERSE BUSINESS EMPIRE
After attending university in the late 1980s, Xiao began selling computers and in the decades that followed built an empire with diverse interests including banking and insurance.
According to the Hurun Report, which ranks China’s wealthiest people, Xiao was worth almost US$6 billion in 2017.
Local media in Hong Kong had reported at the time of Xiao’s disappearance that he was snatched by mainland Chinese agents – fuelling concern over China’s tightening influence in the financial hub.
Those fears were at the heart of massive protests that shook Hong Kong in 2019, prompted by a government Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China’s opaque, party-controlled judicial system.
Xiao had reportedly denied allegations that he fled to Hong Kong in 2014 to escape a corruption crackdown in China.
He is said to have acted as a broker for the Chinese leadership, including for President Xi Jinping’s family.
“After five years of quietly waiting, our family is still, based on my brother’s strict instructions, putting faith in the Chinese government and Chinese law,” Xiao’s elder brother Xinhua told the Wall Street Journal in June this year.
The years after Xiao’s disappearance have been marked by plummeting relations between China and Canada, sparked by the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou – the chief financial officer of telecoms giant Huawei – at the request of the United States.
Following Meng’s arrest, Beijing detained two Canadians in China and targeted Canadian agricultural exports.
All three were released in September 2021 after Meng reached a deal with US prosecutors on fraud charges, ending her fight against extradition to the United States.
Since then, there have been hopes of a thaw in diplomatic relations, with Beijing lifting a ban on Canadian canola imports earlier this year.