Lee Bo, one of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers associated with Causeway Bay Books, is likely to be charged in the mainland with blackmail, Bowen Press reported Tuesday.
The US-based website cited an unnamed source close to mainland authorities.
After a preliminary investigation, the authorities have evidence that Lee blackmailed some mainland celebrities, threatening to publish books that would damage their image, the source said.
It said Lee, who was in charge of the illegal activity, asked the victims to pay to prevent the books from being published.
Bowen said it has no way to determine whether Lee was involved in such a crime.
The source said as it is common for some publishers to blackmail celebrities in the name of the “freedom of press” in Hong Kong, it was not difficult to collect evidence to charge Lee.
It also said that as Lee did not use his British passport to enter the mainland, China can reject his British identity, treat him as a Hongkonger and arrest him as a Chinese citizen.
The source said since Lee’s case has drawn worldwide attention and caused serious damage to China, the Chinese authorities have decided to handle his case separately from those of the four other booksellers.
Under Chinese law, a person who is found guilty of blackmail can be imprisoned for more than 10 years and fined.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday he does not know whether Lee was involved in blackmail or other crimes.
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