Government may recall all diplomatic passports after disappearance of diplomat

In the wake of speculation that one of Antigua & Barbuda’s economic envoys and former diplomatic passport holder may have been arrested in China, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he is prepared to recall all diplomatic passports.

Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua (right) speaking with Prime Minister Gaston Browne (left) and others after a ceremony in the Office of the Prime Minister in June 2015.  (Photo source: freedomskn.com)

Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua (right) speaking with Prime Minister Gaston Browne (left) and others after a ceremony in the Office of the Prime Minister in June 2015. (Photo source: freedomskn.com)

The New York Times reported that 45-year-old Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was “spirited away” by Chinese police from his hotel room at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong and is in custody on mainland China. Xiao has been missing since last week Friday.

On Wednesday, Browne told OBSERVER media, “From all indication, he never utilised his appointment as an envoy to commit any crime. We are still unclear as to whether it was an abduction or arrest, and if it is the latter, what crime, if any, was committed.”

He nonetheless assured that “if he is eventually charged with any wrongdoing” then “potential action involves revocation of his status of economic envoy”. The prime minister said that changes will be made to the system for issuing diplomatic passports.

“The changes are likely to include the recall of all diplomatic passports and re-issue with biometric passports under a new policy. The new policy would also include publication of the list of diplomatic passports issued,” he said.

According to Browne, “International partners” have already received a list of Antigua & Barbuda’s diplomats.