A manuscript about an early romance of President Xi Jinping has been linked to the disappearance of a fifth man at a Hong Kong publishing firm that specializes in books critical of the authorities in Beijing.
Lee Bo, 65, a major shareholder of Mighty Current Media Co., founded in 2012, vanished on Wednesday.
Four other executives and managers of the firm, including Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen born in mainland China, have disappeared since October.
There has been no word about their whereabouts.
Mighty Current publishes books that are critical of mainland leaders and purport to reveal the secrets of their personal lives. It sells the books through the bookstore it owns, named Causeway Bay Books, and other booksellers.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said Sunday he had heard that Mighty Current was about to launch a book about Xi’s relationship with a girlfriend during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when Xi worked in Yan’an, Shaanxi province.
Ho, who chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, told a news conference he suspects the book was linked to Lee’s disappearance, Apple Daily reported Monday.
Warnings had been given to the owners of Mighty Current not to publish the book, which has not yet gone to press, Ho said.
He said Lee was probably kidnapped and then smuggled to the mainland for political investigation.
Any actions taken in Hong Kong by mainland authorities would be a gross violation of the Basic Law.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters Monday the freedom of the press and freedom of publication and freedom of expression are protected by laws in Hong Kong.
He said he wished “to state solemnly the provision under the Basic Law, namely only legal enforcement agencies in Hong Kong have the legal authority to enforce laws in Hong Kong. No other law enforcement agencies – outside of Hong Kong, that is — have such authority.”
Leung was echoing remarks made by Acting Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to reporters Sunday.
Lee said Hong Kong police are actively investigating the case and will widen the scope of their probe.
He said his department has contacted its mainland counterpart seeking information about the missing men and is waiting for a reply.
Lee asked the public to refrain from jumping to any conclusions before the police made an official announcement.
But he failed to answer a question about whether there are travel records regarding the five missing men.
Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, also discouraged speculation, saying the Hong Kong government is keeping a close eye on the case.
Tam stressed that Chinese law enforcement authorities would abide by the “one country, two systems” principle, enshrined in the Basic Law, when doing their jobs.
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