Outcry over China violation of 'one country, two systems' after HK bookseller disappears

An elderly lady looks into a shop display of the Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images
An elderly lady looks into a shop display of the Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong.

The disappearance of a bookseller critical of the Chinese Communist Party has caused an outcry in Hong Kong, amid fears he and four associates have been kidnapped by mainland law enforcement.

Demonstrators, including Hong Kong opposition lawmakers, protested outside the Beijing liaison offices in two Hong Kong districts on Sunday over the alleged disappearance of Lee Bo, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Lee, 65, a major shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, "vanished" last Wednesday after he went to fetch books from a warehouse owned by Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns Causeway, Lee's wife had told Hong Kong media.

She said her husband had later called her from a mainland Chinese number to tell her he was safe but would not reveal his location, the SCMP reported on Sunday.

She said Lee spoke to her in Mandarin even though the pair usually communicated in Cantonese, and that the number he called from indicated he was located in Shenzhen, on the Chinese mainland.

Lee is the fifth person linked to the bookstore to have gone missing in the past two months. Gui Minhai, the owner of Mighty Current, reportedly went missing while on holiday in Thailand in October. Missing person reports have also been filed for three others, the SCMP said: bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei, general manager of the publishing house, Lui Bo, and business manager, Cheung Jiping.

Police sources told the SCMP that police had no record of Lee leaving Hong Kong.

The disappearances have stoked fears of mainland Chinese authorities using shadowy tactics that erode the "one country, two systems" formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997. The city's constitution guarantees wide-ranging personal freedoms and independent law enforcement.

The Causeway Bay Bookstore sells paperbacks highly critical of the Chinese leadership in Beijing, that often contain details of the private lives of senior leaders and their families.

While the books are banned in mainland China, local media said they are popular with Chinese tourists in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho told a press conference on Sunday that he believed Lee was working on a book about the love-life of Chinese President Xi Jinping, based on revelations by one of Xi's former girlfriends, according to a report by AFP.

The case has apparently attracted the attention of hacker group Anonymous, which allegedly threatened to attack official Chinese websites in retaliation for the disappearance of Lee.

In a video posted on YouTube at the weekend, a person claiming to be from Anonymous said in a synthesized voice that he was disappointed that China was not abiding by the "one country, two systems" agreement.

The speaker called on Anonymous members worldwide to support its attacks on Chinese Community Party sites.

Meanwhile, broadcaster HTHK reported that Hong Kong's Secretary for Security, John Lee, had said the police would expand the scope of their investigation into Lee's disappearance. And Hong Kong's second highest-ranking official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, expressed concern about the case on Saturday.

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