Chinese police are investigating a detained Hong Kong bookseller for allegedly selling books by mail illegally in mainland China, a Communist Party newspaper said Monday, the latest twist in a case that has raised concerns over erosion of civil rights in Hong Kong.
The Global Times reported that Gui Minhai admitted to selling more than 4,000 books in that manner despite knowing they had not been approved by China's publications authority.
Gui, who holds Swedish citizenship, was one of four people connected with Hong Kong's Mighty Current publishing house who went missing in October. He resurfaced in January, making a tearful appearance on Chinese state TV to say he surrendered for fleeing the country in violation of the terms of his suspended sentence over a 12-year-old fatal drunken driving case.
Chinese authorities say three others connected with Mighty Current and its retail outlet, Causeway Bay Bookshop, have been detained for an investigation into unspecified criminal activity. Lui Por, Cheung Chi Ping and Lam Wing Kee are shareholders or employees of the company.
Gui disappeared from his vacation home in Pattaya, Thailand, while the three others went missing in mainland China.
Hong Kong police also said in a news release late Monday that they had met another person linked to the Mighty Current case, the editor Lee Bo, at a guesthouse in the mainland, where Lee told them he was voluntarily assisting a Chinese investigation into Gui but refused to disclose other details.
Lee, a British citizen, disappeared on Dec. 30, and many suspect he was abducted by mainland Chinese security agents operating in Hong Kong, which would be a breach of the "one country, two systems" principle Beijing agreed to when it took control of the city from Britain in 1997.
Saying he was "free and safe," Lee asked the Hong Kong police to cancel his missing persons case and stated that he did not require further assistance from the territory's government, according to the Hong Kong police department, which added that it is still making inquiries about the other booksellers.
The European Parliament has called for the five to be immediately released, joining British, American and Swedish officials who have raised concern about the case.
Mighty Current's books on political scandals and intrigue involving China's communist leaders are popular with mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong, despite their being banned on the mainland.