News / Asia

    Mystery of Missing Booksellers in Hong Kong Takes a Twist

    Pro-democracy protesters call for an investigation behind disappearance of Causeway Bay Bookstore staff and owners outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2016.
    Pro-democracy protesters call for an investigation behind disappearance of Causeway Bay Bookstore staff and owners outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2016.
    Associated Press

    Five men associated with a Hong Kong publisher known for books critical of China's leaders have vanished one by one in the last three months, alarming activists and deepening suspicions that mainland authorities are squeezing free expression in the enclave.

    The mystery took another turn Tuesday when the wife of the latest man to disappear said she now believes he went to China voluntarily and has canceled a missing person's report for him.

    Lee Bo, a British citizen who vanished Dec. 30, purportedly wrote to say he went to mainland China to help with an investigation. His case has sparked fears that he was seized in Hong Kong by security agents from the mainland and taken there in violation of an agreement giving Hong Kong a high degree of control over its own affairs.
     
    Lee's wife said she believed the letter showed he wasn't acting under pressure.
     
    "I believe that it was voluntarily written, so that's why I retracted the case,'' Choi Ka-ping told reporters in brief comments.
     
    Lee and the other four missing men are associated with the publisher Mighty Current, which specializes in gossipy books on political scandals involving China's Communist leaders and other sensitive topics that are banned in the mainland.
     
    The disappearance of the five — all since October — has raised concerns Beijing is eroding the "one country, two systems'' principle that's been in place since Britain ceded control of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The principle maintains civil liberties in Hong Kong that are nonexistent on the mainland, including freedom of the press.
     
    British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, on a visit to Beijing, said he pressed officials for information on Lee.
     
    "We have urgently enquired, both of the Hong Kong authorities and of the mainland Chinese authorities, what — if anything — they know of his whereabouts,'' Hammond said. He added that if Lee is involved in any investigation, it should be settled by the Hong Kong judicial system.
     
    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking at the same press briefing, warned against making "assumptions or meaningless speculations'' about Lee, saying that "above all, he is a Chinese citizen.''
     
    When Lee vanished, he reportedly did not have a travel permit for mainland China with him, an indication he didn't plan to go there that triggered speculation about Chinese security agents abducting him. The four others were last seen either in mainland China or Thailand.
     
    An image of Lee's handwritten letter was published by Taiwan's government-affiliated Central News Agency late Monday and subsequently by Hong Kong media.
     
    The letter, faxed to an employee at the publishing company's Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong, said: "Due to some urgent matters that I need to handle and that aren't to be revealed to the public, I have made my own way back to the mainland in order to cooperate with the investigation by relevant parties.''
     
    "It might take a bit of time,'' it said. "My current situation is very well. All is normal.''
     
    The letter gave no details on the investigation to which it refers and raised more questions than it answered.
     
    Hong Kong police still have missing persons' files open for three other staff members or shareholders of the publisher or the bookstore. One of the publishing company's owners, Gui Minhai, is a Swedish national who disappeared in Thailand in October, according to Hong Kong media and human rights groups.
     
    Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Joakim Edvardsson said Monday the government was "very concerned'' about the disappearance of one of its citizens.
     
    Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers and human rights activists were skeptical the letter proved Lee was safe.
     
    "If he did indeed write the letter, it was almost certainly written under duress,'' said William Nee, Amnesty International's China researcher. "What we see in mainland China all the time is that police and state security put enormous pressure on family members not to speak to media and not to raise a fuss on social media. If indeed it was state security that detained Lee Bo, one wonders whether the same tactics are being used to silence family members here in Hong Kong.''
     
    China's nationalist newspaper Global Times slammed the bookstore in an editorial Monday for "profiting on political rumors'' and selling books with "trumped-up content.''
     
    "Although the Causeway Bay Bookstore is located in Hong Kong, it actually stays in business by disrupting mainland society,'' the paper said.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora