The Democratic Party’s leader has criticised Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam for “twisting the core issue” surrounding the Causeway Bay Books incident last year, when responding to fears of suspected cross-border law enforcement by Chinese agents.

Five booksellers – whose company published gossipy books critical of China – went missing and later all showed up on the mainland, claiming they voluntarily crossed the border to assist in an investigation against themselves.

Lee Bo, one of the five, disappeared from the company’s warehouse in Chai Wan, Hong Kong, but appeared again on the mainland without any record of him crossing the border.

Lam said in an interview with CNN that the incident gave rise to anxiety and fears over Hong Kong’s autonomy, but evidence is needed to confirm what actually happened in the incident. She added that she would feel obliged to assure the world that law enforcement in Hong Kong should be carried out by local agencies.

Wu Chi-wai Carrie Lam
Wu Chi-wai and Carrie Lam. Photo: Democratic Party/GovHK.

“I think as the country is now pledging to really govern by the rule of law, we should really be more sympathetic, and perhaps be more understanding,” she said. “But as far as Hong Kong’s position is concerned, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ means ‘One Country, Two Systems.’”

“We are duty bound to safeguard the Hong Kong system. But it would not be appropriate for us to go into the mainland or challenge what happens on the mainland. That has to be dealt with in accordance with the mainland systems.”

But Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said he was very disappointed.

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“The core issue of the incident was whether there was cross border law enforcement,” he said. “The government has a responsibility to investigate this clearly, and protect Hong Kong citizens’ safety.”

“But she twisted this incident into one that must be dealt with in accordance with mainland laws and regulations.”

Causeway Bay Books.
Causeway Bay Books. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Wu said the mainland indeed has the power to deal with sales of items that are banned in the country.

“But in Hong Kong under the ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ officials of all ranks of the central government cannot enforce mainland laws in Hong Kong. This is the key issue.”

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.