Publishing and bookselling associations based in the US and Europe have penned a joint letter to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, urging him to take action on the missing Causeway Bay booksellers.

“The forced disappearance and detention of Hong Kong residents by mainland Chinese authorities is a direct and fundamental threat to Hong Kong’s treaty-based regional autonomy,” the associations said in the letter.

Publishing and bookselling associations signing the joint letter to Chief Executive CY Leung. Photo: Pen American Center.

They said that the booksellers, from the publishing company Mighty Current, were accused by mainland publications of “stirring up troubles on the mainland” because they were selling books critical of the Chinese government.

“This case has sent a terrifying message to writers, publishers, and booksellers in Hong Kong that tackling politically sensitive topics can imperil an individual’s freedom and safety,” the associations said.

They urged the Chief Executive to take action. “Your government has a legal as well as a moral obligation to defend these rights.”

The five booksellers have been missing since last year.

They also asked Leung to “request a formal assurance from Beijing that it will respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and abide by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration”.

The associations, based in the US and Europe, include PEN American Center, the Authors Guild and the Federation of European Publishers. They all seek to defend free expression in written work.

The five co-owners and staff members of Causeway Bay Books and its parent company Mighty Current – which specialises in Chinese political gossip titles – all disappeared late last year. Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, went missing in Thailand last October. During the same month, Lui Por and Lam Wing-kee went missing in Shenzhen, and Cheung Chi-ping went missing in Dongguan. British national Lee Bo disappeared from Hong Kong in December.

Hermina Wong

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.