Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Many in Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about the fate of five people associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, whose stocks cover mainland politics, and the private life of its Communist rulers. Critics blame Beijing authorities for their disappearance. Meanwhile, the store is closed.
Bookseller Lee Bo was last seen on Wednesday. Police said they were going through local CCTV footage to see if mainland agents were involved.
According to Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao, Lee Bo's wife received three calls from him. During the conversation, he told her in Mandarin that he was "cooperating with police investigation,” but did not explain which: Honk Kong or mainland. He also asked her to keep a low profile and that he "would not be coming back anytime soon".
Phone records show the number used to call her was in Shenzhen (southern China).
On Sunday, activists protested outside the Beijing's liaison office to ask for explanations and whereabouts of the missing people.
Lee Bo is the fifth bookshop staff to disappear. The others are Swedish citizen and Mighty Current publishing house owner Gui Minhai, bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei, the publishing house general manager Lui Bo, and publishing house business manager Cheung Jiping. The first was reported missing in Thailand last October; the other three disappeared in November.
Pro-democracy Legislative Council Members Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan took part in the protest.
For Ho, the staff’s disappearance was possibly related to a book about the Xi Jinping's love story, which was slated for publication. For Lee, having mainland police enforce the law in Hong violated the principle of ‘One country, two systems’.
The latter, which entails a certain degree of political autonomy for the former British crown colony, was implemented in 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty.
Speaking on the matter, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Monday that "it is not acceptable if mainland legal agencies enforced law in Hong Kong" and "violate the Basic Law". However, he also noted that there were no indications of the activity of mainland agencies.
In an editorial, the Global Times, a daily Communist party tabloid in English, said on Monday that people should not hype up that Lee Bo was taken away by cross border personnel, describing the books published by Causeway Bay Bookshop as malicious attacks that harmed the reputation of officials.
Founded in 1994, the bookshop has been popular with mainland tourists as a source of books banned in the mainland.
In recent years, mainland authorities have thrown several Hong Kong publishers in jail. Yiu Man-tin, who was working on publications dealing with Chinese leaders, received a ten-year prison sentence for smuggling books. Wang Jianmin and Wo Zhongxiao were arrested for illegal businesses. (J. A.)