Missing Hong Kong bookseller resurfaces, praises China

Lee Bo insists he was not abducted after his wife reported him missing in recent months

Missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo has returned to the territory after a three-month absence, insisting everything was fine, that he had not been abducted and praising mainland China as the future of Hong Kong.

Mr Lee, a British passport-holder, was a shareholder and editor at Roaring Currents publishing house and Causeway Bay bookshop that publishes books with political gossip and salacious stories about Communist Party officials.

He went missing along with four of his associates in recent months, prompting fears that China was riding roughshod over Hong Kong’s legal autonomy.

Mr Lee was reported missing by his wife and had no travel documents with him when he disappeared in December.


A series of emails in which he said his colleague, Swedish national Gui Minhai, had been abducted by Chinese officials for "political reasons", were also published.

UK authorities said his disappearance was highly suspicious and that he appeared to have been illegally captured. Mr Lee subsequently made a remarkable turnaround, saying in a statement he had slipped into Hong Kong illegally to help police with an investigation.

His supporters and human rights activists believe his comments have been made under duress, and his remarks on returning to Hong Kong will do little to assuage those fears.

His colleague Mr Gui made a televised confession on Chinese state media, saying he had handed himself in voluntarily over a 2004 drunk driving case, in what appeared to be scripted comments, all saying they were detained for "illegal book trading".

Mr Lee came back to Hong Kong to cancel the missing person report and, in a bizarre interview with local media expressing sentiments completely different to the views he held before his disappearance, insisted that mainland police had done everything “according to regulations and laws, all the rights that I should have were protected.”

“In the past few months, I have been to many places with my wife, seen many people [and ]experienced the advanced medical resources on the mainland. I feel the mainland has developed well, I feel proud as a Chinese,” he told pro-Beijing local media.

He insisted he did not need help from the police or the Hong Kong government and is planning to renounce his British citizenship.

“My feeling is that, as a Hong Kong person, Hong Kong’s development must rely on China,” he said, adding that conditions were so good on the mainland, that he was planning to bring his son there for medical treatment later.

He then headed back across the border in a car with dual Chinese-Hong Kong number plates, saying he would visit his ancestral graveyards on the mainland for Tomb Sweeping Day next week.

“I want to forget the past and start afresh. I am starting another page in my life,” Mr Lee said.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing