The finance sector lawmaker Ng Leung-sing has said that the missing booksellers were arrested for illegally entering the mainland to frequent sex workers, according to a message “an old friend in the business sector” sent to him.

At a Panel on Security meeting at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, lawmakers raised an urgent question about the five missing Causeway Bay Books staff and owners. The latest one, Lee Bo, went missing on December 30 and was last seen in Chai Wan. In a letter allegedly written by him to his wife, Lee said that “I have returned to the mainland by my own method to assist the investigation by related authorities”.

In response to the questions raised, Ng said that his friend sent him a message that may end the debate on their whereabouts.

Ng Leung-sing. File

Ng quoted the message as saying, “The five bookstore guys were rumoured to have taken illegal boats to smuggle themselves into the mainland to frequent sex workers. They were arrested by Chinese police on the scene separately, and videos were taken as proof.”

“The wife of Lee X, one of the main people, has received photos of him being arrested for paying for sex, so that she has to rush in anger to tell the police to cancel the case,” Ng added. “But the Hong Kong Security Bureau has requested the police to carefully continue the investigation, and in order to prevent people from creating a white terror and smearing the China Liaison Office, they are determined to find out the truth of the case.”

Lee Bo. File

On Monday, Lee Bo’s wife went to the North Point police station to request the cancellation of the missing person report she had filed for Lee.

Ng continued to read out the contents of the message, saying that there are illegal boats in Aberdeen and Cheung Chau at night which go to Guishan Island and Wai Lingding Island, and that there is no need to present a home return permit to get to the mainland.

“Even those anti-communist Hong Kong people on the blacklist can get into the mainland for sex workers and come back to Hong Kong safely,” Ng said. “Their families would not know, and the police would not find any record of departure and arrival, even after asking the Immigration Department.”

The message spread widely on the internet. Photo: Facebook/Umbrella Blossom.

Ng questioned if LegCo should investigate the incident, if the message was true.

“If there is no solid proof and if this Council investigates everything, will the family of Mr Lee feel we are infringing his privacy,” Ng said. “I don’t know if our lawmakers, including Emily Lau, have asked Mrs Lee if she agrees, then we might do it [investigation], if she does not, we may have infringed other’s [interrupted by lawmakers here]… if we form a committee just because we have heard a story, I believe it is dangerous.”

Ng did not read out the last part of the message, which has spread widely on the internet.

“They were in administrative detention by the Chinese police because of prostitution, their families were creating a noise, doing the wrong things even with good intentions, as they thought this is related to publishing anti-communist books, noticed media to use it to create white terror on a mass scale… is the news right? we should wait and see.” The message concluded.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan criticised Ng’s speech. “As if being forced to be ‘disappeared’ is not enough, trust in their characters has to be destroyed as well. These are the methods being used.”

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching wondered on her Facebook page, in reference to Ng, how “the character of a person could be as low as this.”

Not all of the five men disappeared in Hong Kong or mainland China. Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, disappeared in Thailand in October last year.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.