Abductions in HK would breach promises by Beijing: Britain

January 07, 2016 10:25
Philip Hammond (left) says he is none the wiser after asking Chinese officials about the Lee Bo (inset)'s whereabouts. Photo: AP, Ming Pao

Any abduction of people from Hong Kong to face charges elsewhere would be an "egregious breach" of Beijing's promises in taking over the former British colony, Britain's foreign secretary said Wednesday.

Speculation is widespread in Hong Kong that several missing booksellers have been snatched by mainland agents.

Lee Bo, 65, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books and a British passport holder, vanished from the city last week.

Four other men involved in Mighty Current Media Co., the publishing firm that owns the bookstore, which specializes in selling gossipy political books on China's leaders, have been unaccounted for since October.

The disappearances and Beijing's silence have stoked fears of mainland Chinese authorities using shadowy tactics that erode the "one-country, two-systems" formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its 1997 return to China.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters at the end of a two-day visit to Beijing that there had been "no progress" on determining the booksellers' whereabouts after he raised the case with Chinese and Hong Kong officials, Reuters reported.

"It would not be acceptable for someone to be spirited out of Hong Kong in order to face charges in a different jurisdiction," Hammond said.

Such an action would be an "egregious breach" of the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong's Basic Law and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which provided for the handover of power.

"It's an essential part of the settlement in Hong Kong that it has its own judicial system and it is solely responsible for trying offenses that occur in Hong Kong," Hammond said.

There was only speculation about the disappearances and there was a need to "know what has happened and who is responsible for it", he said.

Pressed on the issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that China opposes "any foreign country interfering with China's domestic politics or interfering with Hong Kong affairs".

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the city was still awaiting a response from Chinese authorities on the fate of the men and he would ask again "if necessary".

When asked if China recognizes Lee's British passport, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday that Lee "is first and foremost a Chinese citizen".

Wang warned against "groundless speculation" but declined to give further details.

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