Uproar in Hong Kong as dissident booksellers go missing

Democracy activist Agnes Chow slams ‘political suppression’ by Beijing in viral video

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying at  a press conference  on Monday. He said he and his government were “highly concerned” about the case of the missing booksellers. Photograph:  Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying at a press conference on Monday. He said he and his government were “highly concerned” about the case of the missing booksellers. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

 

Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow has criticised what she calls Beijing’s “political suppression” after the disappearance of five booksellers specialising in literature critical of China, amid fears they have been taken across the border into the mainland by Chinese security forces.

Lee Bo, who works for the Causeway Bay bookshop which is owned by the publisher Mighty Current, was last seen on Wednesday in the company’s Chai Wan warehouse after he went to deliver books to a customer.

There has been speculation in Hong Kong that the publisher planned to publish a book about the early love life of President Xi Jinping. Such a book would not be published in China, but under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, it enjoys freedom of speech and Chinese law-enforcement officers have no right to operate in the city.

Many in Hong Kong are worried that mainland officials took the bookstore owner across the border in a rendition-style action.

He is the fifth missing person case related to the Causeway Bay bookshop since the owner Gui Minhai went missing while on holiday in Thailand in October. Also missing are manager Lam Wing-kei, general manager Lui Bo and business manager Cheung Jiping.

Mr Bo’s wife said she had received a call from her husband from Shenzhen, and that he spoke in Mandarin rather than Cantonese.

She told local media her husband said he was “assisting” in an investigation, even though he had left his travel documents at home, and would not be coming back anytime soon.

Video

“He said he was assisting in an investigation. I asked him if it was about the previous cases, he said yes,” she told Hong Kong’s Cable TV.

Urgent cry

“I hope everyone in the world who believes in universal values of freedom and human rights can stand up and speak for this incident to stop the political suppression,” said Ms Chow.

“Let us stand up to show our discontent on this abduction and stop the oppression of political dissidents in Hong Kong,” she said.

Ms Chow is a key member of Scholarism, one of the main groups involved in the 2014 democracy protests in Hong Kong.

“In the past we were safe because we lived in Hong Kong. The reason for me to film this video is to raise awareness of this serious issue. We feel that Hong Kong is not Hong Kong any more. It is named Hong Kong only,” she said.

Chief executive CY Leung, who has strong support from Beijing, said it was “unacceptable and unconstitutional for mainland agencies to take law enforcement action in Hong Kong”.

Mr Leung said there was no evidence so far that outside agents were involved in the disappearances but said it would be “unacceptable” if any were.

Mr Leung said he and his government were “highly concerned” about the case, and would follow up on it comprehensively.

“It would be unacceptable if mainland law enforcement agents enforce laws in Hong Kong because this violates the Basic Law,” he said.

Violated

Albert Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said the city’s autonomy was under threat.

“Hong Kong people are shocked and appalled. How can mainland officers come to Hong Kong and make arrests? This is terrifying,” he said.