on Senseless Acts Of Bloggery:
ITEM: Hong Kong bookstore employees are disappearing.
Or at least five of them have. Four went missing in October last year. The fifth disappeared last week.
All five worked with the same bookstore – Causeway Bay Bookstore, which just happens to specialize in books that are banned in mainland China (but not HK) because they’re critical of the central govt, especially President Xi Jinping.
That was as of January 8, by which time one of them – Lee Bo – was said to be in China (but without his travel document) helping the police with “an investigation”.
Here’s what’s happened since then:
1. Lee Bo has met with his wife and written a couple of open letters
telling HK to stop investigating his disappearance, he really is helping with an investigation and it’s not really a big deal anyway.
This week, Lee appeared on Chinese TV
explaining how he got into China without his travel document:
"I was worried that upon reaching the mainland and taking part in the lawful investigation, and testifying against others, it would lead to them and their families getting angry with me and this would not be good for me and my family, so to guarantee our safety, I chose to be smuggled in," he said.
Lee also took the trouble to publicly renounce his UK citizenship – which may or may not have something to do with the fact that the UK government has expressed grave concerns
over one its passport holders being abducted into China, which would be a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong that defines the current “One Party, Two Systems” arrangement. By sheer coincidence, Beijing does not appreciate
this insinuation. So it’s nice of Lee to voluntarily settle the issue for them with no coaching whatsoever.
2. Gui Minhai – who was in Thailand when he disappeared – later popped up on CCTV
(China’s state broadcaster) making a tearful confession that he turned himself in to Chinese police after he killed someone in China while drunk-driving – 12 years ago. While a friend of Gui’s confirmed the drunk-driving incident really happened, a lot of people are finding it hard to believe he just decided to go turn himself in – and just two days after two of his associates had also vanished.
3. The other three – Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee – turned up in jail in China
. They’ve also appeared on TV confessing crimes of “illegal book-trading” – i.e. selling their books critical of Xi Jingpeng on the mainland. Also, Lam took the trouble to point out that, by the way, the allegations in the books were all completely untrue
"They were downloaded from the Internet, and were pieced together from magazines. They have generated lots of rumours in society and brought a bad influence."
The three were set to be be released on bail
sometime this week.
As you might expect, few people outside of the Chinese govt are taking the TV confessions seriously, as China has a long history of making examples of critics via public confessions that seem strikingly tailored to back whatever specific points Beijing wants to make by arresting them.
In any case, unofficially (i.e. this is according to other sources, not the official police line), a narrative is starting to unfold
: Gui Minhai allegedly set up a distribution outlet in Shenzhen to sell banned books in China. The other three in jail were allegedly involved somehow, and Lee Bo – who allegedly had no knowledge of any of this – was allegedly recruited to allegedly help investigate the case.
There’s still plenty we don’t know yet, and what we do know seems dubious. And we may never know the whole story. There are three things we do know for sure:
1. Two of the four people who ended up in jail were not in mainland China when they disappeared. And we know Lee Bo somehow got into mainland China despite not having his travel document with him – possibly even volunteering to be abducted (which seems like an odd thing to agree to after working for a publishing company and bookstore highly critical of Beijing – to say nothing of giving up his British passport).
Which again raises the central question of the whole affair: how did the three of them who were outside of China suddenly end up there?
Because there’s only a few possible options there, and one of them is this: the Chinese police are kidnapping people who are not Chinese nationals that they want to put in jail.
Which is, needless to say, alarming.
2. The HK government is very unlikely to pursue the matter. The HK Police Commissioner has met with Lee Bo, and has said he doesn’t believe that Lee is telling the whole story
, but with Lee unwilling to press charges or make any accusations and basically telling them that there is no case, the police don’t have any choice but to drop it.
So, as usual, it’s a case of two governments – both of which have gone out of their way to undermine HK public trust in them – saying, “Trust us, there’s nothing wrong here.”
3. Local delivery companies are a lot more nervous about shipping banned books
to mainland China than they used to be. Which I'm sure is one of the desired results of all this, as far as Beijing is concerned.
Would I lie to you,
This is dF