Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of Hong Kongers took to the city's streets on Sunday to protest the mysterious disappearance of five publishers and booksellers last year, calling for their immediate release. Allegedly taken by Chinese authorities, the abductees publish and sell books that are often critical of China’s leaders; some of them also hold European passports.
According to Hong Kong police, at the peak of the protest, there were 3,500 protesters who chanted "no to cross-border abductions" and "stop political kidnapping". Protest organisers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said there were 6,000.
The march went from the Special Administrative Region's government offices in the business district of Admiralty to the Chinese government's liaison office in the western Hong Kong district of Sai Wan.
At the liaison office, protesters tied yellow ribbons -- a symbol of the city's 2014 Occupy movement – around railings in front of the building. A handful of demonstrators, carrying British-era Hong Kong flags and banners shouted "Hong Kong is not China”.
The latest person to go missing, on 30 December 2015, was Lee Bo. A news agency reported that the Causeway Bay Bookshop staff faxed a handwritten note to a colleague in which he says that he was working with police on an important issue.
After filing a missing report with police, his wife withdrew her complaint. Still, Hong Kong police added his name to the list of missing people and went through local CCTV footage to see if mainland agents were involved.
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.
Lee Bo was 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.
In view of the situation, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying recently said 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.