The long shadow of the Chinese Mainland has darkened with the appearance of the disappeared Hong Kong booksellers on Phoenix TV confessing to various crimes. The booksellers specialized in selling publications that were critical of the PRC government. Many of their publications were banned in Mainland China.
The booksellers vanished from HK late last year. One, Gui Minhai, appeared on TV in January confessing to a fatal hit and run accident that occurred a decade before. Monday three more of the disappeared appeared confessing to various crimes against the state. They confessed to selling banned books to Chinese citizens and making up some of the books.
As part of the hand over of the former British colony, HK was to have guarantees of freedom which includes freedom of the press.
While many believe that the five were kidnapped by Chinese and illegally transported to the mainland, authorities vehemently deny that their officials would act in any way that is illegal. However, in some cases the men disappeared from their bookstores in HK and had left behind travel documents, money and personal effects.
Lee Bo carries a British passport. His current whereabouts are unknown in spite of efforts by British diplomats. Gui Minhai carries a Swedish passport yet efforts by Swedish diplomats have been stonewalled. The remaining three booksellers – Lui Bo, Lam Wingkei and Cheung Jiping do not have even that scanty protection.
An author currently living in New York, Xi Nuo, claims that he is responsible for this crisis as he has a published a novel titled “President Xi Jinping and His Lovers”. Others see it as an intimidation of press freedom in HK in general. Several bookstores have already culled some of their publications from their shelves.
Upcoming elections in the former colony may have Beijing with the jitters. There is a growing movement in HK of an independence party. Beijing has referred to those advocating greater independence as “radical separatists” and “inclined toward terrorism”.
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