In recent months, five employees and owners of a publishing company that is critical of the Chinese regime have disappeared. Lee Bo, the latest to vanish, was last seen in a Hong Kong warehouse on December 30, 2015. Later that day, Lee called his wife from a phone number in Shenzhen, a mainland city across the border from Hong Kong. Presumably speaking under duress and paraphrasing his captors, Lee told his wife that if he “cooperated,” he would be “dealt with leniently.” He said he was “assisting investigations” and would not be back for a while.
“Hong Kong is an autonomous region with a strong democratic will, and it should be no place for Chinese authorities to conduct their authoritarian business,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “China signed a bilateral agreement with the British to maintain Hong Kong’s civil liberties for half a century starting in 1997. Abducting critical book publishers in Hong Kong territory not only violates this agreement, it is also an attempt to turn Hong Kong into a satellite dictatorship of China’s Communist Party. Mainland authorities must release the five publishers at once, and refrain from repressing the people of Hong Kong,” Halvorssen concluded.
The phone call by Lee Bo to his family is highly suggestive that Lee may have been abducted to mainland China by Beijing emissaries, because his wife found his Home Return Permit at home and Hong Kong police said that there were no recent records of Lee leaving Hong Kong. A Home Return Permit is required for Hong Kong citizens to cross the border into mainland China. Under the Basic Law of Hong Kong, mainland police authorities cannot operate in the autonomous region.
With the signing of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Britain transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to China in 1997, and both powers agreed that a “one country, two systems” structure would preserve Hong Kong’s civil liberties until 2047. Under Article 3, Section 5 of the agreement, “the rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research, and of religious belief will be ensured by law” in Hong Kong, and respected by China.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
Read this release in Chinese here.
Contact: Noemi Gonzalo-Bilbao, (212) 246-8486, firstname.lastname@example.org