Finance sector lawmaker Ng Leung-sing has apologised for saying that missing Hong Kong booksellers, suspected of being abducted by Chinese security forces, were arrested for illegally entering the mainland to frequent sex workers.

At a Panel on Security meeting at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, Ng quoted a message from “an old friend” suggesting that “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.”

Sophie Choi, wife of missing Causeway Bay Books co-owner Lee Botold Ming Pao that Ng’s speech was “shameless” and that he “took Hong Kong people as fools.” Choi said she reserves the right to take legal action.

Ng Leung-sing
Ng Leung-sing. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

On a radio programme on Wednesday, Ng apologised twice to Choi and Lee’s family.

However, Ng also said that although the message may not be correct, “the public has the right to know” about it. He added that he did not say Lee’s full name when “skillfully” reading out the message, but media agencies revealed that he had referred to Lee Bo.

Ng said he cannot allow the untrue and irresponsible smearing of mainland and Hong Kong authorities. He stressed that he did not know he was “speaking wrongly” and that he will improve his speaking skills in the future.

In a letter allegedly written by Lee Bo to Choi, he wrote: “I have returned to the mainland by my own method to assist the investigation by related authorities.”

Choi had said that she believed the letter was in fact from Lee.

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.