The European Union has issued a statement calling on relevant authorities in Thailand, China and Hong Kong to investigate and clarify the circumstances behind the disappearance of five Causeway Bay Books staff.
Five employees and owners of the bookstore have been reported missing since October last year: one was last seen in Thailand whilst three others were last seen across the border from Hong Kong in Shenzhen. The bookstore is popular among mainland tourists keen to buy titles banned in the mainland.
The latest to go missing, Lee Bo, was last seen on December 30 in Chai Wan, Hong Kong. In a letter allegedly written by him to his wife, Lee wrote: “I have returned to the mainland by my own method to assist investigations by relevant authorities.”
The EU statement read: “The continuing lack of information about the well-being and whereabouts of five Hong Kong residents (Lui Bo, Gui Minhai, Zhang Zhiping, Lin Rongji and Lee Po) associated with the publishing house Mighty Current is extremely worrying.”
“Two of them are EU citizens – Gui Minhai is a Swedish national, and Lee Po is a British national. In the case of Gui Minhai, he has been reported missing in Thailand since mid-October.”
“As Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has stated, it would be a violation of the Basic Law if, as media allege, mainland law enforcement agencies had been operating in Hong Kong. This would be inconsistent with the ‘one country two systems’ principle.”
“Respect for freedom of expression underpins all free societies. The relevant authorities in Thailand, China and Hong Kong should investigate and clarify the circumstances of the disappearances in conformity with the rule of law.”
Information and Communication Officer at the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao Paul-François Polidori told HKFP that it “has no further comments at this point.”
“We are waiting for further information,” Polidori said.
On Wednesday, British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond said Beijing would be guilty of an “egregious breach” of Hong Kong’s autonomy if speculation that Chinese security forces had abducted a British bookseller was confirmed, the Guardian reported.
On Thursday, Hong Kong police visited the bookstore and its publishing warehouse, where they asked nearby residents to provide information on the missing.