Mr Lee Bo, a major shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in material critical of the Communist Party of China, went missing and his wife reported his disappearance to Hong Kong authorities on Jan 1, fueling fears that he had been taken to the mainland.
In an editorial, it said the case had been “sensationalized” in Hong Kong, arguing there was no point in “political speculation” while the investigation was continuing.
“In the era of the Internet, their impact is not limited to Hong Kong, but also leaks into the mainland, and becomes a genuine problem facing the country”, it said.
Mr Leung said he and his government were “highly concerned” about the case, and would follow up on it comprehensively.
The suspected abductions have sent shockwaves through Hong Kong publishing circles, where complaints over increasing censorship and pressure from Beijing are common.
It added that it hoped Chinese authorities would ensure the environment for media and publishers in Hong Kong supported “full and frank reporting”.
Anson Chan, who was the territory’s chief bureaucrat immediately after the handover from British rule, said Hong Kong people were already feeling increasingly vulnerable, as they had seen a “steady erosion” of the rights that were guaranteed at the time of that handover.
The last to disappear was Paul Lee, also known as Lee Bo, a shareholder in the bookstore and the publishing house that owns it, Mighty Current.
As for the bookshop, it closed a day after Mr Lee’s disappearance. Visitors and supporters have hung tags on the door demanding their government secure the return of the missing men, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
“The freedom of the press and freedom of publication and freedom of expression are protected by laws in Hong Kong”, he said in an official transcript of his comments, and went on to claim he was paying extra close attention to the developing case.
Under the city’s mini-Constitution, the Basic Law, only agencies in Hong Kong have the legal authority to enforce laws in the city, he added.
Maya Wang, China researcher for US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch, said Mighty Current had previously been targeted by Beijing’s censors.
His wife says he called her from Shenzhen, just over the border in mainland China, and told her he is helping with an investigation.
Other officials said local police were pursuing Lee’s disappearance as a “missing persons” case and had contacted authorities on the mainland. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
“In Hong Kong, the only people who can exercise the power of the law are our legal enforcement agencies of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government”, he said.
“These books spread to the mainland by various means, becoming a source of political rumours, and creating negative effects”, it said.
Shares of New World Development and New World China were halted from trading yesterday, pending an announcement related to a takeover or merger, according to separate statements to the Hong Kong stock exchange. “An Urgent Cry from Hong KongI am Agnes Chow, a member of Scholarism, a student activists organization from Hong Kong”.
“The hottest theory is that Lee Bo was detained by mainland law enforcement personnel in a so-called cross border operation”, the paper said in a signed commentary article on Monday, pointing to the content of books sold in Causeway Bay Books as a contributing factor.
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