03/01/2016, 14.09
CHINA - HONG KONG
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Missing publisher Lee Bo confesses on Hong Kong TV

by John Ai

For the first time since he went missing, the founder of Causeway Bay Bookshop appeared on pro-Beijing Phoenix TV, saying that he went to mainland China of his own free will to cooperate in an investigation. Three company employees have already "confessed." Confession is becoming the weapon of choice to defame dissidents.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - For the first time since he disappeared, Lee Bo, co-owner of Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Bookshop, appeared on pro-Beijing Phoenix TV.

In an interview, he said he went to mainland China of his own free will and denied he had been abducted or spirited away. He noted he might return Hong Kong once the investigation is over.

Lee Bo admitted that he travelled to the mainland without proper papers, and that he was smuggled in with the help of friends but “was not convenient to disclose the details”.

"I was worried that upon reaching the mainland and taking part in the lawful investigation, and testifying against others, it would lead to them and their families getting angry with me and this would not be good for me and my family, so to guarantee our safety, I chose to be smuggled in," he said.

Mr Lee also said he crossed into China by choice to "co-operate in investigations" into his publishing company, Mighty Current, and its employees, and chose to "sneak into the mainland".

In the interview, he denied that he went to China for reasons related to prostitution or the books he printed, to blackmail someone. He said that he reserved the right to sue anyone who said otherwise.

The book publisher slammed some organisations for hyping the case, adding that he was always a Hongkonger and Chinese. He said he had never lived in the UK "nor enjoyed the rights and privileges of a British citizen”, and confirmed that he plans to give up his British citizenship.

The UK government responded to Mr Lee’s decision saying that it was ready to meet him, but had not so far been allowed to do so, despite formal requests to the Chinese government.

Phoenix TV also showed some pictures of the publisher with his wife, saying that he was safe and free in China, that he spent the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) with his wife, that they were happy. Lee Bo also said that police were friendly to them.

Gui Minhai, co-owner of Mighty Current (the publishing house that owns Causeway Bay Bookshop) who disappeared in Thailand in October 2015, had reappeared on China Central TV (CCTV), the main state television broadcaster in People's Republic of China. On that occasion, he stated that he had given himself up spontaneously to Chinese authorities because of a drink driving incident involving a student a few years ago.

Phoenix TV reported that Gui is now accused of illegal commercial activities, namely altering book covers to avoid censorship in order to send unlawful material to mainland customers.

Three employees accused him on television of rumour mongering and plagiarising books to boost sales. The TV channel said that the three are expected to be released and sent back to Hong Kong because of their confession.

Lee Bo too accused Gui in his interview. He said that his former partner encouraged him to set up Mighty Current, that he was a person of “objectionable moral character” who plagiarised books.

He also said that he was repentant and wanted to apologise to his victims, adding that he was cooperating with the investigation.

Confessing on television is becoming a routine government practice against dissidents. In January 2015, Swedish activist Peter Dahlin confessed to "inciting opposition to the government" before he was deported.

In early February, Zhang Kai, a lawyer who represented churches trying to protect their crosses from demolition in Zhejiang, stated on TV that he wanted to "earn money and fame " by exploiting the issue.

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