When five Hong Kong booksellers went missing in November, many immediately suspected the Chinese government. Now, for the first time, Chinese authorities have admitted that they’ve detained three of the five missing booksellers. According to China, the men – Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping, and Lam Wing-kee – are being investigated for “illegal activities.”
With the latest admission, all five of the missing booksellers have been confirmed to be in China. Gui Minahi, who was last seen in Thailand, is now in China and appeared on state TV to “confess” to a hit-and-run (authorities say he turned himself in, but Gui’s relatives insist that he was abducted from Thailand). British citizen Lee Bo was also previously confirmed to be in mainland China – according to a letter he sent to his wife, he’s there to help Chinese authorities with an “investigation.”
For many, the fact that the missing booksellers surfaced in China confirms the worst suspicions about the Chinese government’s role in their disappearance. The bookstore that the five helped run had a relationship with an anti-government publishing house, fact that raises serious censorship concerns.
The incident also has serious geopolitical consequences, because Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy autonomy from mainland China – autonomy that would be seriously threatened it if were to be proven that any of the five were abducted on Hong Kong soil. Lee Bo’s disappearance has drawn particular interest in this regard, as he was last seen in Hong Kong and seems to have left suddenly, without his travel permit.
h/t the Guardian
Main image: Isaac Lawrence/AFP