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Hong Kong bookseller disappearances

‘First and foremost a Chinese citizen’: China’s foreign minister on missing Hong Kong bookseller who also holds British passport

New developments including letter allegedly from bookstore owner spark further speculation over his disappearance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 January, 2016, 2:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 11:28am

The disappearance of Lee Bo took a diplomatic twist in Beijing last night when China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, described the missing Hong Kong bookseller as “first and foremost a Chinese citizen”.

Wang was responding to questions during a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, who is in the capital to sign business deals as the economic relationship between the two nations grows.

READ MORE: Letter to wife from vanished Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo throws up more questions than answers

At the same press conference Hammond expressed “deep concern” about the disappearance of 65-year-old Lee – who holds a British Passport – and called on the Hong Kong and mainland authorities to “urgently” ascertain his welfare and whereabouts.

The top-level intervention came as Lee’s wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping said a letter she received from her husband which prompted her to withdraw a missing person report she made to Hong Kong police last week, was authentic, insisting it was in his handwriting and he hadn’t been forced to write it.

“I believe he wrote the letter out of his own free will, that’s why I withdrew the request for police help,” she said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the police investigation would continue and even urged Lee to come forward and provide information to the SAR authorities.

READ MORE: Missing Hong Kong bookseller ‘friendly, and not high-profile’: Lee Bo’s friends describe the man at the centre of the mystery

At last night’s press conference in Beijing, without naming Lee, Wang said: “Based on the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China, this person in question is first and foremost a Chinese citizen.

“I think that other parties have no necessity to make any groundless speculation before he himself, his family, the SAR and the central governments have expressed their stance.

“We will continue to uphold the principles of ‘one country, two systems’, Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong, and a high degree of autonomy.”

In Hong Kong yesterday, Lee’s wife hit out angrily at pro-government lawmaker Ng Leung-sing, describing comments by Ng - made under Legislative Council privilege — that her husband and his four associates who have also gone missing were detained after being found cavorting with prostitutes, “hameful and irresponsible”.

The mysterious disappearance of Lee took a dramatic twist on Monday, when Choi suddenly withdrew her request for police help, claiming she had been in touch with her husband after he vanished.

Deepening the mystery, the Central News Agency published what it said was a handwritten letter faxed by Lee to a bookstore colleague.

The letter stated that Lee “returned to mainland my own way and am working with the concerned parties in an investigation which may take a while”.

Additional reporting by Zhen Liu in Beijing and Danny Lee in London