Hong Kong police said they met missing bookseller Lee Bo at a hotel in mainland China Monday morning and took a statement from him, in which Lee claimed he had gone to the mainland of his own accord.
Police said Lee asked them to end the investigation into his mysterious disappearance from Hong Kong in December, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Wednesday.
Lee gave media interviews to Phoenix Television, Sing Tao Daily and Thepaper.cn, admitting he entered the mainland illegally to assist in an investigation by mainland police.
He said he had avoided normal channels because he feared might be in danger from people he was going to give evidence against.
Hong Kong police quoted Lee as saying he would return to Hong Kong after providing assistance to the mainland police in their investigation.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said Tuesday that Hong Kong police would not terminate the investigation and would wait to meet with Lee again when he returns to Hong Kong to determine if he was involved in any illegal activity.
A British Foreign & Commonwealth Office representative said in a statement Tuesday that Britain is ready to render consular assistance to Lee, who holds a British passport, and to his family at any time.
The FCO representative said a formal request had been submitted to the Chinese government for consulate staff to pay a visit to Lee.
However, the request has not been entertained, and so the British authorities could not ask Lee what assistance he might require.
Meanwhile, Lo said there is no evidence suggesting cross-border law enforcement in Lee’s case or that he was abducted in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong police have made enquiries of Guangdong provincial authorities regarding the status of three other missing booksellers — Lui Por, Lam Wing-kee and Cheung Chi-ping — and as to when they could return to Hong Kong, Lo said.
He said police would not take further action, including setting up another meeting with Lee.
Given the lack of any new evidence, Lo said, for now, police could only believe what Lee had told them.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said before an Executive Council meeting Tuesday that the fact that the police and other government departments have never ended their investigations of Lee’s case, despite the request from Lee’s wife, is a reflection of the government’s stance.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said there is no evidence suggesting that the “one country, two systems” framework has been damaged — which would have occurred if mainland agents were shown to have abducted Lee in Hong Kong.
Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s panel on security, said it is hard to understand the logic behind Lee’s explanation.
“If he was to assist mainland authorities with an investigations, why would he not have the confidence in mainland police ensuring his safety?” To asked.
He said it would have made more sense for Lee to go to the mainland through border control points using his home return permit.
Fellow lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the New People’s Party, said Hongkongers would not believe Lee’s explanation.
Tien said he suspected that Li’s appearance was arranged by mainland authorities in an attempt to play down the incident, especially in view of the upcoming annual meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress.
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