Hong Kong bookseller disappearances

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

Publisher Wang Jianmin, 62, and editor-in-chief Guo Zhongxiao, 40, published two political affairs magazines in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 1:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 11:32pm

A pair of Hong Kong journalists behind two political affairs magazines were jailed in Shenzhen yesterday for running an illegal business, the same charge that landed five local booksellers in trouble last year.

The two were imprisoned a month after one of the five booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, returned to Hong Kong to make explosive claims about being taken away after crossing the border into Shenzhen and put through eight months of mental torture.

Publisher Wang Jianmin, in his 60s, was jailed for five years and three months, while editor-in- chief Guo Zhongxiao, 41, was sentenced to two years and three months. They had pleaded guilty in the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court last year.

Mystery deepens over missing booksellers after Lam Wing-kee makes explosive allegations in Hong Kong

Guo’s lawyer, Xia Qianhai, said his client would be released next month, since the pair were arrested in May 2014.

The two Hong Kong identity card holders were living in Shenzhen when they were nabbed.

Prosecutors said their company, National Affairs Ltd, which was registered in Hong Kong, had earned HK$7 million through the publication of two magazines, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face.

The two publications specialised in rumours and gossip about the Chinese leadership before they were suspended in April 2014, according to their website.

The defence argued that the two magazines’ mainland readers only accounted for 66,000 yuan (HK$80,600) of total revenue – less than half the minimum 150,000 yuan minimum required to justify prosecuting someone for running an illegal business.

Under mainland Chinese law, if an illegal business operation involves less than 250,000 yuan, the jail term will be below five years.

Hong Kong police to consider obtaining video of Lam Wing-kee’s crossing back to city in ‘mainland agents’ probe

It was understood that Guo was convicted without the judge actually determining the amount of his “illegal earnings” –a rare occurrence, according to mainland lawyers.

The publications were printed in Hong Kong, and copies were sent to only eight people on the mainland, all friends of the publisher, the lawyers had said.

In a statement, Lam Wing-kee said: “[The sentence] shows that Beijing is trampling on the ‘one country, two systems’ principle ... Hong Kong must express its strong protest.”

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan described the verdict as a blow to the freedom of speech, publication and press in Hong Kong.

“The jail terms were very heavy. The publications were in fact printed in Hong Kong by registered companies here,” she said.

Hong Kong journalists plead guilty to running illegal publication business in mainland China

“It appears that the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on such publications.”

She said the Hong Kong government had a responsibility to offer help to its citizens.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said: “Freedom of publication is protected under the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Hong Kong journalists held in Shenzhen 'because magazines have mainland subscribers'

The Immigration Department would only say it had not received any request for help regarding the two jailed journalists.

On cross-border detention, Hong Kong and mainland China must strive for greater progress

But Hong Kong media and publishing outlets have been slapped with a range of other charges in the past. Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin was jailed for 10 years in 2014 on a smuggling charge after he published a book titled China’s Godfather, Xi ­Jinping.