Three of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers could return to Hong Kong from mainland China on bail in the near future, mainland news website The Paper and Phoenix Television reported late Sunday night.
However, Gui Minhai, one of the five men involved with publisher Mighty Current Media Ltd. and its bookstore Causeway Bay Books who are being held by mainland authorities, will face new charges, as fresh evidence pointing to illegal business operations has emerged, the reports said.
Gui, a publisher of political gossip books, mysteriously disappeared from Thailand in November last year.
Mainland authorities have alleged that Gui, Lui Por, Lam Wing-kee and Cheung Chi-ping have been selling banned books to customers in the mainland who ordered them online.
The Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings Ltd. (02008.HK) report said Lui, Lam and Cheung have displayed a better attitude in their confessions and could be released on bail soon.
It said Gui, a naturalized citizen of Sweden, was recently visited by staff of the Swedish Consulate.
Gui said in a new video recording aired by Phoenix TV, wearing the same gray jacket as in previous appearances on mainland TV, that “what we have done has violated mainland China laws”.
He said he and his team discussed several times how to avoid official inspections, including replacing book covers and using dark-colored nylon packing bags to deceive X-ray machines.
In the same video, Cheung, Lam and Lui made their first public appearances since their arrests.
Lam’s son, who is in Hong Kong, said he has yet to learn whether his father is coming home soon.
Ming Pao Daily reported Monday that he said he could only wait for further news before deciding on several issues, such as seeking legal help.
He said he knows little about his father’s bookstore activities and has no idea whether his father had been selling banned publications in the mainland.
Hong Kong police declined to comment.
The Paper and Phoenix TV said in reports that were practically identical that Gui had been responsible for selling more than 4,000 copies of banned books to about 380 customers in the mainland since October 2014 and had set up a bank account in the mainland to collect the proceeds of selling those books.
Lui admitted on TV that the bookstore sold publications to people in the mainland without obtaining the necessary license. He also said Gui was known for plagiarizing other writers’ work.
Lam said he would usually communicate with customers from the mainland via the instant messaging app QQ while processing an order.
He also said Gui made up the contents of most of his books and would grab materials from online, magazine and other sources to add to the rumors in them.
Cheung, the bookstore’s general manager, said he was willing to accept punishment even though Gui was the mastermind of the operation.
Hong Kong political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said it appears that mainland authorities are now trying to put the blame on Gui, especially as a possible release of the three other booksellers is being mentioned, Ming Pao reported.
Lau said the Hong Kong government should take the responsibility of following up with the case and to find out how people like Lee Bo, the fifth bookseller, have gone missing from Hong Kong.
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