Causeway Bay Books co-owner Lee Bo may return to Hong Kong by the end of the month, Ming Pao reported on Friday. Upon his return the publisher is expected to meet with local immigration and police officials, the report said. Lee was reported missing last December after mysteriously disappearing from his Causeway Bay office.

A quintet of booksellers – Lee Bo, Gui Minhai, Lui Por, Lam Wing-kee, Cheung Chi-ping – disappeared over a period of weeks late last year. The men all worked at Mighty Current Publishing and Causeway Bay Bookstore. The store sold political titles banned in China.

Lee Bo said in a television interview that he would give up his British citizenship. Photo: Phoenix TV screenshot.

The case of the missing booksellers was raised during the annual “two sessions” in Beijing and mainland authorities decided that it was “an appropriate time” for Lee to return to Hong Kong, sources cited by Ming Pao said.

The report said that the decision has to do with a “slight shift” in the central government’s policy, whereby top officials – such as Premier Li Keqiang, National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang, and Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Wang Guangya – wished to tone down the approach taken towards matters relating to Hong Kong.

However, authorities were reportedly worried about whether the family of book publisher Gui Minhai would “stir up more trouble”. In January, Gui appeared on state television “confessing” to killing a schoolgirl in Zhejiang in a drink driving accident over a decade ago. Gui’s daughter, Angela, had told the media that there was no way her father would have voluntarily returned to the mainland and turned himself in. Four of the booksellers have emerged over the past month to admit to “operating an illegal business” on the mainland, but Lee Bo was not among them

Cheung Chi-ping in the Phoenix TV interview. Photo: Phoenix TV screenshot.

On Wednesday, bookseller Cheung Chi-ping spoke to a Sing Tao Daily reporter that “bumped into” him in Sha Tin. Cheung, who returned to Hong Kong to buy baby supplies, said his pregnant wife was in Dongguan and is expected to give birth next month.

Both Cheung and Lui Por returned to Hong Kong earlier this month and met with the Hong Kong police to cancel their respective missing person reports, then went back to the mainland.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.