Hong Kong’s Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said Thursday that there are currently no plans to prosecute bookseller Lee Bo for allegedly crossing the border illegally.

“After collecting evidence and seeking legal advice from the Secretary for Justice, we think that there is insufficient evidence for prosecuting Lee,” Tsang said at a press conference. “If new evidence surfaces in the future, we may review the case or re-open investigation.”

Erick Tsang Kwok-wai
Erick Tsang Kwok-wai (fifth right) attended a media conference on Thursday. Photo: GovHK.

Lee was associated with Causeway Bay Books, known for selling political gossip titles banned in China. He went missing in 2015, becoming the fifth employee at the publisher to disappear. Lee returned to Hong Kong last year after resurfacing in mainland China and appearing in televised confessions.

Last January, a letter allegedly written by Lee was published by Taiwanese official media, saying that he had traveled to China “by his own means” to assist mainland authorities with their investigation. But his wife said that he left behind his home return permit – a travel document required for Hong Kong residents to enter mainland China – implying that Lee might not have traveled to China by legal means.

A month later, Lee admitted in an interview with Chinese media that he “chose to smuggle himself” to the mainland because he did not want to leave any immigration records in fear of alarming anyone who might hurt his family.

Upon returning to Hong Kong last March, he asked Hong Kong immigration and police officers to cancel his missing person report.

Lee Bo, a shareholder of the Causeway Bay Books, went missing on December 30 in Hong Kong. Lee Bo's wife received an alleged video from Lee Bo on 9 January. A screenshot of the video was printed on Sing Tao Daily on 10 January. Photo: HKFP.
Lee Bo’s interview with Phoenix TV after his disappearance. A screenshot of the video was printed on Sing Tao Daily on 10 January, 2016. Photo: HKFP.

Last June, Lee’s ex-colleague Lam Wing-kee shocked the city by appearing at a press conference after going missing in October 2015. Lam claimed he was kidnapped by a “central special unit” in China, and that a TV “confession” he gave was scripted and orchestrated.

But a day after Lam’s public appearance, Lee gave a rare response by posting a denial of Lam’s claims on social media. “During the time when I was cooperating in an investigation with Ningbo police, I have never heard of anything called ‘central special unit,’” Lee said.

See also: A call that never comes: Why I cannot remain silent after Chinese authorities abducted my father

A month after Lam’s return to Hong Kong, Chinese authorities urged him to return to the mainland for investigation, threatening to subject the ex-bookseller to unspecified criminal compulsory measures if he did not comply.

While Lam is now a vocal critic of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, Lee has not made any public appearances in recent months. Two of the other three missing booksellers reappeared in Hong Kong last March, but local media reported that they returned to mainland China soon after. The third, Gui Minhai, remains in the custody of Chinese authorities, more than a year after he disappeared while vacationing in Thailand.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.