HONG KONG -- Lawmakers and protesters in Hong Kong are demanding answers after the disappearance of a fifth employee from a company that publishes material critical of the mainland Chinese government.
The mysterious disappearance of the employees, four of whom have been missing since October, fuels growing concerns in Hong Kong that the mainland government is tightening its control on the autonomous region. However, the Beijing-backed Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said on Monday there was “no indication” mainland Chinese law enforcement was behind the disappearances, Reuters reports.
Lee Bo, the chief editor and major shareholder of the publishing company Mighty Current, disappeared Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reports. Susie Choi, Lee's wife, said that he failed to come home for dinner that night, after going to the publisher's warehouse in Hong Kong. He later called Choi from a phone number based in mainland China to tell her he was fine, but that he was working on an investigation.
"The Hong Kong people are very shocked and appalled by the enforced and involuntary disappearance of Mr. Lee Bo in Hong Kong," said Albert Ho, a pro-Democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong during a Sunday press conference. "We have strong reason to believe that Mr. Lee Bo was probably kidnapped and then smuggled back to the mainland for political investigation."
Ho said he believed the publisher was working on a book about the past love life of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Mighty Current is known for publishing "glossy paperbacks that are highly critical of Chinese leadership," according to the BBC. Causeway Bay Bookstore, Mighty Current's Hong Kong-based storefront, is a popular stop for Chinese tourists who can't buy such books on the mainland.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Beijing representative's office in Hong Kong Sunday to press the mainland government for answers and protest its overstepping of the boundaries laid out under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle of governance.
Hong Kong's Acting Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told SCMP that local officials have already reached out to Beijing for information.
“Through an established mechanism, Hong Kong police can make inquiries to the mainland law enforcement agencies on whether any Hong Kong people have been detained on the mainland,” Lee said. “Hong Kong police have already done this ... We are waiting for a reply.”
According to the BBC, the four other employees missing since October are Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national who owns Mighty Current; Lui Bo, Mighty Current's general manager; Cheung Jiping, Mighty Current's business manager and Lam Wing-kei, who manages Causeway Bay Bookstore.
Hong Kong's constitution provided that after it was handed back to China from the British, it would remain largely autonomous and retain its own currency, political system, legal system and civil liberties not enjoyed on the mainland.
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