The case of the five missing booksellers, as well as the rejection of Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun’s promotion to pro-vice chancellorship at the University of Hong Kong, have been highlighted in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, released by the U.S. Department of State.

Five booksellers, including Lee Bo and Gui Minhai, who are British and Swedish citizens respectively, disappeared at the end of last year. The five resurfaced separately in the mainland this February and March. All worked at Causeway Bay Books, which was known for selling books banned in mainland China.

missing booksellers lee bo
Missing booksellers. Photo: HKFP.

“Credible reports gave rise to widespread suspicions that PRC security officials were involved in their disappearances,” said the report.

Lee appeared on Phoenix TV in February saying that he “smuggled” himself into China to help with an investigation. He also said that he did not want anyone to make a fuss about his case.

Rejected for pro-vice chancellorship

The rejection of Johannes Chan for pro-vice chancellor at HKU by the university’s council was also highlighted by the report.

Chan was investigated by HKU over a donation related to the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

Johannes Chan
Johannes Chan. File

The reported noted that Chan’s rejection was the first time a recommendation by an HKU search committee had been rejected by the HKU council.

“Many Hong Kong residents, including pro-democracy activists, academics, students and HKU alumni, expressed concern that HKU’s Council had bowed to pressure from the Chief Executive Office and the central government,” the report said.

Deteriorating freedoms

The report also mentioned the deteriorating environment for press freedom, as well as increasing restrictions placed on protests by adding conditions to the “Letter of No Objection,” required for demonstrations.

The report also noted that there was concern from NGOs over domestic workers being subjected to forced labour.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.