As the bookshop plot thickens, Beijing critic Lee Bo still missing
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The saga of Hong Kong’s missing bookseller took an odd turn on Monday.
Lee Bo disappeared on 30 December 2015 and is probably held in mainland China.
A news agency reported that on Monday, he faxed a handwritten note to a colleague in which he says that he was working with police on an important issue.
One results has been that his wife has withdrawn her request for police help.
However, in Hong Kong, pro-democracy lawmakers still blame Beijing for his disappearance, and want the local government to investigate the matter.
Lee Bo was the fifth person involved with the Causeway Bay Bookshop to disappear. The store and an associated publishing house are known for releasing works on China’s ongoing power struggle and on the private lives of its Communist leaders.
Lee’s wife earlier had said that her husband had called her three times from Shenzhen (southern China) the night he disappeared. For this reason, she went to police.
However today, she withdrew her request for police help, claiming she had been in touch with her husband after he vanished.
Deepening the mystery, a news agency published what it said was a handwritten letter faxed by Lee to a bookstore colleague.
The letter stated that Lee “had to handle the issue concerned urgently and cannot let outsiders know”. He also said he “returned to mainland my own way”.
However, two Hong Kong lawmakers – Democratic Party’s James To Kun-sun and the New People’s Party’s Michael Tien Puk-sun – on Tuesday voiced doubts over whether Lee really went to the mainland in his “own way”.
“He has resisted going to the mainland the whole time. Why would he suddenly go to the mainland in his own way?” To said on a radio programme. “And why didn’t he just use his home return permit to do so?” Both want Hong Kong authorities to elucidate the matter.
One answer has come from The Global Times, an English-language newspaper that acts as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.
“Although Causeway Bay Books was opened in Hong Kong, the harm it has done against the country has already entered the mainland,” it said in an editorial. “Lee Bo knows it well. He was probably willing to cooperate with the investigation in a ‘low profile’ way”.
Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said the faxed note suggests that mainland agents have placed Lee under investigation.
“It all the more showed what actually happened was that Lee was under investigation because his bookstore made insults about the mainland,” Lee said on a radio programme.
“This is what Hongkongers worry about the most,” i.e. “being arrested by mainland agents in Hong Kong and taken across the border,” he added.