Thursday 29 September 2016

Missing Hong Kong bookseller resurfaces in TV interview

Published 01/03/2016 | 09:41

Lee Bo says he crossed the border into mainland China
Lee Bo says he crossed the border into mainland China

A Hong Kong bookseller who has been missing for two months has reappeared in an interview with Chinese media, saying he was not abducted but instead crossed illegally into mainland China to help authorities with an investigation.

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The interview with Lee Bo, broadcast late on Monday, came a day after another man he worked with, Gui Minhai, purportedly confessed to illegally selling thousands of books by mail to mainland Chinese buyers.

The 16-minute interview shown on Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing Phoenix TV appears to be an attempt to quell growing concern over the fates of the pair, who specialised in books on sensitive political topics banned in mainland China.

The case has raised fears about Beijing eroding civil liberties in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Mr Lee went missing on December 30 and four others disappeared in October. The five worked for Mighty Current Media or its Causeway Bay bookstore, whose books were popular with mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong.

The case drew international concern over fears Beijing was eroding the "one country, two systems" principle that allows Hong Kong to maintain civil liberties such as freedom of the press and a high degree of control over its own affairs.

Mr Lee's case in particular rang alarm bells because of suspicions he was snatched by mainland Chinese security agents who crossed into Hong Kong.

Britain's Foreign Office said in a report in February that Mr Lee, a British citizen, was "involuntarily removed" to the mainland. However, Mr Lee said the claims were false and were used being used by unnamed groups to hype up his case.

He said: "After the Mighty Current affair emerged, I wanted to secretly go back to the mainland as soon as possible to resolve the company's affairs, then secretly return to Hong Kong,."

He added he did not want anyone to know and did not want to leave any record of his journey at immigration checkpoints so he chose to use "illegal immigration," but did not give further details.

Mr Lee also said he planned to renounce his British right of abode, or residency rights, though it is not clear why he used that term rather than citizenship.

Press Association

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