A staff member of a Hong Kong political book publisher was reportedly detained in the mainland last year for questioning in order to obtain company’s secrets, although he was released just hours later.

Lau Tat-man, the responsible person of Hafaiyi Publishing Limited, said that a staff member went to the mainland on October 24 last year, and was taken away for questioning by people claiming to be mainland officers, reported the BBC’s Chinese service.

Hafaiyi Publishing Limited is the publisher of monthly political magazine Frontline. It also regularly publishes political books which are banned in the mainland.

Frontline magazine.
Frontline magazine.

Lau said that the officers did not show any identity documents or procedural document, so the staff member was under false imprisonment.

“[The officers] wanted to force him to tell secrets of the Frontline magazine, to collect ‘evidence’ of me committing certain crimes,” said Lau.

The staff member was released after four hours in custody.

The magazine is to publish a statement accusing the Chinese government of illegally harassing its staff member, BBC Chinese reported.

“If anything happens to staff members, their relatives and authors of the Frontline magazine, they must be framed by Chinese Communist Party agents and black police,” the statement read.

But Lau said the incident had not affected the company, and he was not worried about his personal safety.

Missing booksellers

Hafaiyi Publishing Limited was founded in Hong Kong after the Tiananmen crackdown in June 1989. It has published more than 200 titles related to China, according to its website.

On the same day the staff member was taken away, Cheung Ji-ping, a manager of the Causeway Bay Books, went missing in Dongguan. Causeway Bay Books specialises in political gossipy titles banned in the mainland.

Four other staff members and shareholders of the bookstore have gone missing since October last year. The latest one was Lee Bo, who went missing in Hong Kong on December 30, and was recently confirmed to be in the mainland by the Guangdong police.

Both Lee and Gui Minhai, another shareholder, said they went to the mainland voluntarily.

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.