Hong Kong bookseller disappearances
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Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest over the disappearance of the booksellers. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong politicians urge mainland Chinese authorities to ‘stop keeping everyone in dark’ about missing Causeway Bay booksellers

Witheld information includes Lee Bo’s exact whereabouts and why he was in mainland China

Mainland Chinese authorities have been urged to stop keeping every one in the dark and spell out everything they know about the five missing booksellers, as critics said the information the Guangdong public security department provided to Hong Kong police on Monday was not easing people’s worries.

The angry remarks came after the Guangdong authorities told the city’s force in a letter it was “understood” Lee Bo was “on the mainland”.

READ MORE: China finally confirms it has detained Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo after his Swedish associate is paraded on state television

Also enclosed in the reply was a letter from Lee addressed to the Hong Kong government. The content of that letter was similar to the one received by his wife Sophie Choi on Monday – the third letter sent back to Hong Kong since he disappeared on December 30 – in which the bookseller said “things are going well” on the mainland.
An employee walking past shelves in a bookstore in the Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

No other information – such as Lee’s exact whereabouts, why was he in mainland China, whether he was being detained and how he entered the mainland when there was no record of him leaving the Hong Kong – was provided.

READ MORE: Timeline: Hong Kong’s missing booksellers and what has happened so far

“The way the information is released is like someone squeezing the toothpaste tube. It’s not helping... what we will see in the future is that the five booksellers will be framed a number of crimes,” said Civic Party lawmaker Chan Ka-lok.

“Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying needs to demand the State Council and even President Xi Jinping respond to ease Hong Kong people’s concerns.”

READ MORE: ‘Dear Ping...’ Another letter from missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo surfaces

Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan criticised the Guangdong authorities for giving the Hong Kong people a perfunctory reply and also hit out at the Hong Kong government for being “useless and passive” on pushing the mainland for more replies.

Bookseller Lee is one of the owners of Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
Civic Party's Kwok Ka-ki(R) and members protest outside liaison office to urge release of the missing booksellers. Photo: SCMP/ K. Y. Cheng

It is suspected he was kidnapped by Chinese agents in Hong Kong in December, sparking concerns that the “one country, two systems” principle is under threat.

Since October last year, four of Lee’s associates have disappeared either in mainland China or Thailand.

National People’s Congress deputy Maria Tam Wai-chu, who is also a Basic Law drafter, urged the central government to co-operate with the Hong Kong government.

“It doesn’t help tackle everyone’s discontent if this incident drags on. It would be best that the central government, municipal government and the law enforcement agencies co-operate with the Hong Kong government as soon as possible so that the truth will be made known,” she said.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said the reporting mechanism between Hong Kong and mainland law enforcers had failed.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-yin (R); with Undersecretary for Security Lee Ka-chiu (L) and Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Edward Yau Tang-wah (centre). Photo: SCMP/Nora Tam

“If CY Leung cannot get a satisfactory answer [on the disappearances] from the mainland authorities, he needs to take the issue to Beijing,” she said.

Under the mechanism, law enforcement agencies on the mainland need to notify the city’s police within 14 days if any Hong Kong resident is detained across the border, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said earlier. But he was told by the city’s officials that this 14-day requirement is just an unwritten rule.

Meanwhile, Professor Simon Young of the University of Hong Kong’s law faculty, wrote in a letter to the Post that there are indications mainland officials were implicated in Lee’s entry into mainland China.

READ MORE: Why the case of the Hong Kong booksellers is more of a worry than China’s market woes

“First there are Lee’s statements that he is ‘assisting an investigation’ in mainland China. The nature of the books sold by Lee’s bookstore, coupled with the disappearances of his four associates, suggests a criminal investigation into offences such as spreading rumours or slander to subvert state power or other national security offences,” said Young, who is also associate dean of research at the faculty.