Date
30 March 2017
The disappearance of some people who had been selling books critical of China's leaders has sparked outrage in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
The disappearance of some people who had been selling books critical of China's leaders has sparked outrage in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Lee Bo disappearance fuels worries about threat to free speech

Following the mysterious disappearance of five local booksellers, concerns are growing about the threat posed by Beijing to freedom of speech in Hong Kong on politically sensitive matters.

Tam Wing-sze, executive editor at the publishing firm that produces the Fleurs des Lettres literary magazine, says Hong Kong people are witnessing “white terror” as critical voices are sought to be silenced.

If the staffers of Causeway Bay Books have been made to suffer because they were selling titles critical of Chinese leaders, it doesn’t bode well for other bookshops as well in the city, she said.

We now need to wonder whether laws that safeguard citizens are still in place, RTHK quoted Tam as saying.

Petula Ho Sik-ying, associate professor at the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of the University of Hong Kong, also expressed concern about recent developments and their implications.

When freedom of the press is stifled, it will mean curbs on citizens’ freedom of thought, she said.

The disappearance of Lee Bo, co-owner of Causeway Bay Books, and some of his associates has stirred fear that what was earlier considered impossible is now a harsh reality, she said.

The comments came amid speculation that Lee was taken away secretly by mainland security agents to question him for “anti-national” activities. 

If such a thing could happen to Lee, it could happen to anyone in Hong Kong, Ho said.

Lee went missing last Friday, while four of his associates vanished a few months ago.

Ma Fung-kwok, a lawmaker representing the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publications functional constituency, stressed that Hong Kong enjoys freedom of the press, and that the public should not jump to any conclusions about the missing booksellers.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China will lead a protest march this Sunday to voice concerns about the threat to “One country, Two systems”.

The demonstrators will march from the government headquarters at Tamar to the central government’s Liaison Office.

Page One suddenly pulls books banned by Beijing off shelves (Jan. 6, 2016)

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