26 October 2016
Thousands march to protest the disappearance of book publisher Lee Bo and his associates. Photo: Reuters
Thousands march to protest the disappearance of book publisher Lee Bo and his associates. Photo: Reuters

Thousands protest over disappearance of publishers

Thousands of Hong Kong people took to the streets on Sunday, demanding to know the whereabouts of five people associated with a Causeway Bay publishing house who have been missing one after the other since October last year.

Led by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the protesters marched from the government’s headquarters in Admiralty at about 3 p.m. urging Beijing to respect the “one country, two systems” principle that guarantees Hong Kong’s autonomy, Ming Pao Daily reported on Monday.

With many dressed in yellow and holding aloft yellow umbrellas – the symbol of the pro-democracy campaign in 2014 – protesters chanted “No to political kidnap!” and carried banners that read “Where are they?” as they headed toward the central government’s Liaison Office, where they arrived at 5 p.m.  Some of the rallyists burned a flag of the Chinese Communist party.

Organizers said more than 6,000 joined the rally, but police estimated the turnout was about 3,500 at its peak.

Joining several lawmakers and prominent figures from the pan-democratic camp, former chief secretary Anson Chan said the disappearance of bookstore owner and publisher Lee Bo has damaged the “one country, two systems” principle to a great degree.

Lee, 65, a major shareholder of Mighty Current Media Co., which publishes books that are critical of China’s top leaders and reveal secrets of their personal lives, has not returned home since Dec. 30.

Four other executives and managers of the firm have also disappeared since October with no word about their whereabouts.

Many speculate they had been kidnapped by mainland agents and then smuggled across the border for investigation by authorities, in violation of the Basic Law.

The case has sparked worries that Beijing is tightening control over Hong Kong and the city might lose its freedom of expression as a result.

In response to the protests, the government issued a statement Sunday evening that it has been strictly following the Basic Law and will continue to defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

It said it will urge mainland authorities to reply as soon as possible to its request for information about the missing booksellers.

Meanwhile, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong urged the police to reveal details of the case to the public to avoid misunderstanding.

On Saturday, Headline Daily reported that a video featuring Lee Bo was sent to his wife Choi Ka-ping in Hong Kong, rebutting recent rumors about his disappearance.

The newspaper did not release the video, but reported that Lee appeared calm as he sat on a sofa and spoke before the camera.

The report said Lee could not understand the big media coverage over his alleged disappearance.

It is understood that Choi also received a letter from her husband containing the same information mentioned in the video.

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