`Missing` bookseller returns to Hong Kong, seeks end to probe

Lam Wing-kee is one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who published salacious titles critical of Beijing and disappeared at the end of last year.

Hong Kong: A Hong Kong bookseller who went missing in mainland China and re-emerged under detention returned to his home city Tuesday and asked police to drop their investigation into his initial disappearance.

Lam Wing-kee is one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who published salacious titles critical of Beijing and disappeared at the end of last year, a case which fuelled growing fears Beijing was tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

It later emerged that all had been detained in China, where four of them -- including Lam -- are under official investigation over the import of banned books from Hong Kong to the mainland.

Lam is the latest to return to Hong Kong -- three of the other booksellers have also made short trips but have quickly gone back over the border.

Hong Kong police said they met Lam Tuesday morning. Like the others who have come back, he requested the cancellation of his missing person case and said he did not need official help, police said.

Critics have said the retractions were made under pressure from Beijing.

Hong Kong police have said they are continuing to investigate the booksellers` cases.

Lam was one of three who went missing from southern mainland China in October.

Another went missing from Thailand and the fifth, Lee Bo, from Hong Kong.

Lee`s disappearance led to accusations that mainland law enforcement agents were operating illegally in the city.

Lam`s colleagues Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por returned to Hong Kong in March on bail, but are reported to have quickly gone back to the mainland. Lam is also on bail.

Lee resurfaced in the city the same month, only to cross back across the border less than 24 hours later. He insists he is a free man and is just assisting mainland authorities.

The men all worked for the Mighty Current publishing house, which produced books about political intrigue and love affairs at the highest levels of Chinese politics.

Bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, confessed to trying to smuggle illegal books into China in a television interview in February.

Lam, Cheung and Lui blamed the company`s illegal book trade on Gui.

Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997 and enjoys far greater liberties than in mainland China, but there are fears these are being eroded.


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