The authorities, here and in Beijing, owe us straight answers on the missing booksellers
Local and central governments must act now as concerns over the ‘one country, two systems’ principle will not go away until the fears of Hongkongers are allayed
The controversy surrounding the five missing booksellers has deepened, with more people coming forward to counter the disturbing account given by Lam Wing-kee. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also spoke up yesterday, saying the issues would be followed up properly. The public now eagerly awaits clarifications and assurances.
Having returned from his overseas holiday, Leung chaired an interdepartmental meeting over the Causeway Bay Books saga. He later told the media that the government would write to Beijing expressing people’s concerns over the incident. He also pledged to review the notification mechanism regarding Hongkongers detained on the mainland, as well as sending officials across the border for follow-up action if necessary.
There are those who question why such actions were not taken earlier. Belated as it is, the decision is already a step forward compared with the previous responses of the government. Since the controversy came to light in January, officials have repeatedly said that they have been following up the case with the relevant authorities on the mainland. But so far, there have been more questions than answers. Adding to the concerns is the suggestion that the investigation into the booksellers is being carried out by a special duty task force outside mainland law enforcement agencies.
Also in need of improvement is the notification system between Hong Kong and the mainland. Eight months have passed since the booksellers went missing one after another, but the Hong Kong authorities have not been told of their situation as required under the mechanism. Leung yesterday said the system could be enhanced in terms of speed and transparency.
The barrage of accusations and denials over the weekend was to be expected. There may well be more conflicting claims as Lam and others continue to speak out. While the war of words may feed an inquisitive public hungry for more details, it does little to assuage people’s worries over the perceived erosion of the “one country, two systems” principle. This was reflected in the strong emotions expressed at a rally on Saturday.
The booksellers’ saga has been described by some as the worst fears for Hongkongers’ freedom and safety coming true. The international media are also closely following the matter. The importance of maintaining local and international confidence in “one country, two systems” cannot be overstated. Whether we can close this chapter and move forward depends on whether Beijing and the local government can allay the fears.