Missing Hong Kong bookseller is in China: city government

Lee Bo, who works for a publishing house that sells titles critical of Beijing, was last seen at a book warehouse in Hong Kong on December 30.

AFP| Updated: Jan 19, 2016, 16:34 PM IST

Hong Kong: China has confirmed that a missing Hong Kong-based bookseller, one of five men whose disappearance fuelled fears of an erosion of the city`s freedoms, is on the mainland, the city`s government said.

The news will add to fears of pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and some residents who believe mainland authorities are kidnapping critics to try to silence dissent.

Lee Bo, who works for a publishing house that sells titles critical of Beijing, was last seen at a book warehouse in Hong Kong on December 30.

He was the fifth employee of the Mighty Current publishing house to go missing in recent months.

Three were in China when they vanished, but the disappearance of Lee from Hong Kong and of another man from Thailand has raised fears of Chinese authorities operating internationally.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said Tuesday police had received information from Chinese authorities that Lee was in China.

The spokesman said the letter was issued by the public security department of Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, but it did not specify where the missing man was.

Hong Kong police have written to the Guangdong security department asking to meet Lee.

City officials have been lambasted for what critics call a weak response to the disappearances.

"It doesn`t seem that the public has been calmed," Hong Kong parliament`s speaker Jasper Tsang told reporters late Monday.

Democratic lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan added: "People in Hong Kong want to know the truth. Why is he (Lee Bo) in the mainland and how did he end up there?"

Lee accused the government of "being passive", and pressed Leung to take up the issue with the central government in Beijing.

Lee`s associate Gui Minhai, who disappeared in Thailand, appeared on Chinese state television Sunday.

A weeping Gui claimed he had returned to China to "take legal responsibilities" for killing a college student in a car accident 11 years ago.

Rights campaigners dismissed Gui`s apparent confession, calling it a "smokescreen" to play down concerns that he was being detained by mainland authorities for his work.

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 after 150 years as a British colony. Under a "One country, two systems" agreement, the semi-autonomous city is guaranteed freedoms that are not available on the mainland.

However, campaigns for greater democracy have been stymied and many activists fear Beijing is imposing its authoritarian stamp on the freewheeling city.