17 July 2019
The suspected kidnapping of a shareholder in a bookstore in Causeway Bay (left) bears similarities to North Korea's abduction of Japanese. Photos: VOA,
The suspected kidnapping of a shareholder in a bookstore in Causeway Bay (left) bears similarities to North Korea's abduction of Japanese. Photos: VOA,

Disappearance of a bookseller and the long arm of Beijing

North Korea can be called a first-tier rogue state, and one of the crimes it is particularly good at is abducting people, even on foreign soil.

Now we know that Beijing has been inspired by Pyongyang, after revelations that Chinese agents chased and snatched individuals in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

Five Hongkongers who work for a Causeway Bay bookstore known for selling titles banned in China have gone missing one after another.

Bookseller Lee Bo called his wife twice, reportedly from Shenzhen, giving rise to speculation concerning his whereabouts after the government found no record of Lee’s passing through any of the border checkpoints.

His mainland travel permit and Hong Kong passport are still at home.

All this suggests that Lee was spirited away across the border.

Pyongyang has been kidnapping people in Japan since the 1970s, particularly in western coastal prefectures such as Niigata, Ishikawa, Fukui and Tottori.

When I was teaching in Akita last year, I could still see signs along the coast warning of abduction.

Later, the long arm of North Korea even reached people in places close to Tokyo.

There were also a dozen horrifying cases in the early 1980s in which Japanese tourists in Europe were forcibly taken away.

Pyongyang is also believed to be the culprit in murders involving 17 victims in Japan, official figures from Tokyo show, and the number of those who went missing or were suspected to have been abducted, mostly people in their 20s, could be much higher.

But what is Pyongyang’s motive?

It needs Japanese to teach its agents the language, and it also needs Japanese identity documents for its agents to enter Japan (the abducted Japanese nationals faced imminent death).

Members of the Japanese Red Army — a terrorist, communist militant group — who took shelter in North Korea after a government crackdown also need sex slaves.

Some innocent people who accidentally witnessed their crimes were killed or kidnapped.

The Japanese government has been vigorously fighting Pyongyang’s abductions, and there was a ministerial-level officer in Shinzō Abe’s first cabinet designated to head a task force to counter its operations.

The Chinese Communist Party started assassinating people it disliked, including Kuomintang leaders, in Hong Kong and other places in 1949.

Later on, it sent agents or hired members of the triad, the local mafia, to kill or intimidate journalists and democrats.

Now, the latest episode is a bookseller being shanghaied.

The CCP’s characteristics are indistinguishable from the worst features of the Workers’ Party in North Korea.

We must watch closely how the Hong Kong government deals with the nascent crisis, to see if it will dodge its obligations or do something even worse; that is, act as Beijing’s accomplice.

In an autocratic state, local officials have no right whatsoever to raise objections but must toe the line when the central authorities engage in something evil.

A new battle to defend Hong Kong

The Canadian Consulate General in Hong Kong held commemorative services at three historic sites across the city early last month to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, in which 1,975 Canadian soldiers, among the earliest overseas reinforcements after the war in the Pacific broke out in 1941, fought to defend the city against the Japanese invasion.

Five hundred and fifty-seven of them lost their lives in the war or in the subsequent occupation.

Canada has been hosting annual events to honor the sacrifices made by its soldiers as well as the unique bond between Hong Kong and Canada.

In the past, not so many Hong Kong youngsters knew about the war and the Canadian soldiers that fought shoulder to shoulder with local forces for the city.

As nativism has gained momentum in recent years, Hong Kong immigrants to Canada and their descendants there have also formed groups to participate in commemorative events. 

Now, in the face of formidable threats that have been felt in all aspects, particularly in the media sector and among the local intelligentsia, a new battle to defend Hong Kong’s institutions is on.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 5.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


The Canadian Consulate General in Hong Kong held a commemorative ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Sai Wan War Cemetery on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong. Photo: Canadian Consulate General

Canadian soldiers who fought to defend Hong Kong 70 years ago and their descendants attend the memorial services. Photo: Canadian Consulate General

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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