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Hong Kong bookseller disappearances

Two men jailed in China for selling Hong Kong-published books, sources say

Case handled by same police bureau that investigated five Hong Kong booksellers for selling ‘unauthorised’ books on mainland, according to one of the sources

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 9:27am

Two people have been jailed in mainland China for illegally selling books published in Hong Kong, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The case was handled by the same police bureau that investigated five people linked to Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong who went missing from their homes two years ago, one of the sources said.

The cases prompted fears that they had been abducted by the mainland authorities for selling gossipy works critical of government leaders and the controversy attracted international headlines. The booksellers later surfaced on the mainland helping the police investigate the alleged sale of unauthorised books across the border.

One year on: Hong Kong bookseller saga leaves too many questions unanswered

The two men jailed in the latest case are Dai Xuelin, a Beijing-based social media editor at the Guangxi Normal University Press, and his business partner Zhang Xiaoxiong, the sources said.

Dai was jailed for five years and Zhang was given a 3½- year prison term for running an “illegal business operation”, according to the sources.

The sentences were handed down by a court in Ningbo in Zhejiang province earlier this month, the sources said.

It is not clear whether the pair had direct business links with booksellers at Causeway Bay Books.

Dai and Zhang’s case was handled by police bureau in Ningbo, which also carried out the Hong Kong bookseller investigation, one source said, even though the pair do not come from the city.

The pair had bought Hong Kong-published books not authorised for sale on the mainland from another distributor in China, the source said.

Among the books sold by the Dai and Zhang singled out by investigators was How the Red Sun Rose, an academic work written by the prominent mainland historian Gao Hua, one source said.

The Hong Kong-published book uses Communist Party documents to discusses the role of former leader Mao Zedong in the party’s bloody internal purges in the 1940s.

Hong Kong has seen the publication and sale of politically-sensitive books about mainland China flourish in recent years. The books have been highly popular among mainland tourists as they often include political gossip about top government leaders, content banned on the other side of the border.

One source said officers led by the Ningbo police bureau carried out an exhaustive investigation into Dai and Zhang’s affairs.

“All their customers were summoned to police stations to confirm transaction records,” the source said. “Some were told by police that Ningbo police was leading the investigation.”

Two of the Hong Kong booksellers detained on the mainland - Lee Po and Lam Wing-Kee - said after their eventual return home that they were taken to Ningbo during the police investigation.

The Ningbo police bureau accused Lam in a written statement of running an illegal business operation by selling Hong Kong books to mainland readers.

In echo of missing booksellers case, Shenzhen court jails two Hong Kong journalists for running illegal business

One of the five booksellers, Gui Minhai, is still in custody on the mainland.

He went missing from his home in Pattaya in Thailand in October 2015.

He later appeared on state-run television admitting he had fled from a suspended two-year jail term for causing the death of a 23-year-old university student while drunk-driving in Ningbo in 2003.

Two Hong Kong-based journalists -Wang Jianmin and Guo Zhongxiao- were jailed across the border in Shenzhen last July for running an illegal businesses.

The court said the magazines, registered and published in Hong Kong, were illegal publications.