Hong Kong bookseller could face criminal charges in China: Report

(From Radio Free Asia)

One of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers associated with Causeway Bay Books could face criminal charges from authorities across the internal border in mainland China after concerns were raised over whether he was seized by Beijing’s agents in the semiautonomous city.

A protester holds up a missing person notice for Lee Bo, manager of Causeway Bay Books, in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2016.

A protester holds up a missing person notice for Lee Bo, manager of Causeway Bay Books, in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2016.

Police have reportedly found evidence that Lee Bo, who holds a British passport and whom the British government says arrived in China against his will, has “blackmailed” certain celebrities in mainland China.

The U.S.-based Bowen Press cited unnamed sources on Tuesday as saying that Lee is alleged to have threatened to publish books that would damage the images of these celebrities.

Lee is accused of demanding payment to prevent the books from being published, Bowen said.

Lee’s case is being handled separately from that of his four disappeared colleagues, because of the amount of international criticism it has caused, its source said.

Last week, Britain accused the ruling Chinese Communist Party of breaching an international treaty under which the former colony of Hong Kong was handed back to China, with its detention of Lee.

In a six-monthly statement to parliament on the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration under which Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Lee was “involuntarily removed” across the internal immigration border to mainland China.

“This constitutes a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and undermines the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ which assures Hong Kong residents of the protection of the Hong Kong legal system,” Hammond said in the statement.

China responded by telling Britain to stop interfering in its internal affairs, and to “mind its words.”

Determining Lee’s fate

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that he was unable to verify the report, nor did he know if Lee was being charged with any other crimes, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Calls to Lee’s wife Sophie Choi rang unanswered on Tuesday.

Veteran Hong Kong journalist and political commentator Ching Cheong, who once worked for a ruling Chinese Communist Party newspaper in Hong Kong, said it is still too early to say what Lee’s fate will be.

“We are hearing all sorts of reports and rumors that Lee has been charged with this crime or that crime,” Ching told RFA. “But that’s not the crucial point here.”

“They are deliberately putting out these stories piecemeal, so as to distract everyone’s attention from what China did wrong,” he said, adding that the disappearances constituted a serious breach of the “one country, two systems” promises under which Hong Kong was handed over to Beijing as a separate legal jurisdiction.

“China, which has been crossing borders and detaining people [outside its jurisdiction] is in breach of the one country, two systems principle,” Ching said.

“That’s the heart of the matter.”

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA’s Cantonese Service and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright Radio Free Asia


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