Hong Kong’s leader called Tuesday for anyone with information on the disappearance of a well-known bookseller to come forward, amid suspicions that Beijing had a hand in his sudden departure, reports said.
“I hope anyone, especially Mr Lee Bo, can contact the police and provide information,” Chief Executive CY Leung said Tuesday, according to the South China Morning Post.
Leung said Monday that the government was “extremely concerned” about the disappearance of publisher and bookseller Lee Bo, whose bookshop was known for publishing books critical of mainland politicians.
He acknowledged rumours that mainland authorities had abducted Lee, who was last seen on Wednesday, but told reporters there was no indication of this.
“Only legal enforcement agencies in Hong Kong have the legal authority to enforce laws in Hong Kong,” he said.
The disappearance, the latest of a total of five people apparently linked to the bookshop, led to protests on the streets of Hong Kong.
Critics say it is an example of how freedom of speech is under threat on the island, which Britain handed back to China in 1997.
Two further twists to the mystery came on Monday, when Lee’s wife reportedly withdrew her missing persons report for her husband.
She said that the bookseller had been in touch with a friend, according to Hong Kong’s RTHK radio. She had earlier said he called her from a number in the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Pro-democracy lawmakers told the radio station that a handwritten letter which surfaced on Monday, apparently from Lee, did not prove that Lee was safe and that the case still needed to be investigated by police.
Chinese officials have not commented on the case, but state-run Global Times said that the bookshop was making a “profit by political provocation.”
Speculation over Lee’s disappearance was “ideologically biased,” it said in a commentary on Tuesday.