Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen is warning the public against jumping to conclusions in the disappearance of book publisher Lee Bo, saying the case is under investigation.
Yuen said the government is determined to get to the facts, Apple Daily reports.
He was speaking during the ceremonial opening of the legal year which was attended by some of Hong Kong’s legal luminaries.
Yuen acknowledged growing public concern over the incident, adding citizens’ freedom and safety are protected by the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights.
He said criminal investigations and arrests carried out by a foreign entity in contravention of these principles are not allowed.
Yuen was referring to reports Lee, who publishes books and periodicals critical of the Beijing elite, was abducted by Chinese security agents for unspecified reasons.
Speaking at the same event, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma of the Court of Final Appeal said the Basic Law entitles Hong Kong people to freedom of speech and the right to freely enter and leave Hong Kong and not be illegally arrested, detained or jailed.
He said Hong Kong’s judicial independence can only be assured by adhering to the constitution.
Ma refused to comment on the incident, pending the outcome of the investigation, but said he is aware of public unease over it.
Senior barrister Audrey Eu said the Lee Bo saga was discussed by almost all lawyers and judges at the ceremony.
Also, she said many of her friends from overseas have expressed concern.
Hong Kong Bar Association chairman Winnie Tam (譚允芝) said public doubts remain even after a purported message from Lee that he is fine.
Tam said Beijing and the Hong Kong government must come up with answers in order not to jeopardize “one country, two systems”.
Senior barrister Lawrence Ma (馬恩國), a member of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told a radio talk show that Lee might have been taken by Hong Kong-based parties.
He said a Beijing-directed arrest by mainland law enforcers is too high a political risk to be believable.
Ma said it’s possible Lee is in the mainland receiving some “political counselling” and that his arrest could be linked to a power struggle in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Financial Times splashed Sunday’s protest march on the front page of its Asia edition on Monday.
It said the Lee Bo incident could diminish the value of Hong Kong as the only Chinese city with the freedom to publish books critical of the country’s leaders.
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