Chinese police made their first statement on the fate of one of five missing Hong Kong booksellers, believed to have been abducted by mainland agents, stating widespread concerns, but offering no new information.
Lee Bo, 65-year-old dual British and Chinese national and owner of a publisher and bookstore specialising in books critical of China’s Communist Party leaders, disappeared from Hong Kong on Dec. 30.
The disappearances sparked fears that mainland Chinese authorities may be using shadowy tactics to collapse the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to China from British rule in 1997.
A government radio station reported that police in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong offered no new information in a letter to Hong Kong media on Friday and did not address their Hong Kong counterparts’ requests for a meeting with Lee.
The letter included just two points released earlier by the Hong Kong police that Lee wrote a letter saying that he went to the mainland on his own accord and that mainland authorities confirmed to Hong Kong that he was “understood” to be on the mainland, the radio station reported.
"If there is news, we will notify [Hong Kong] in a timely fashion," the radio station said.
The British government is still waiting for responses to its diplomatic requests to obtain information and access to Lee.
According to a statement issued by Lee’s wife, he was healthy and in good spirits and that he was a witness in an ongoing inquiry. His wife had visited Lee in a mainland guesthouse last weekend.
The four other booksellers are believed to be still in mainland detention, including Swedish national Gui Min-hai who disappeared from the Thia resort town of Pattaya last October.
Gui appeared on Chinese state television this month saying that he had voluntarily turned himself into Chinese authorities last month over a fatal drink driving case more than a decade ago.
With international diplomatic concern intensifying, the European Union strongly criticised China’s human rights record.
The 28-nation bloc’s China delegation described the recent televised confessions by detained Chinese and European citizens as "unacceptable," in a statement on its website. It said that the disappearance of the booksellers a “worrying trend.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, later described the EU’s criticism as irresponsible and "not constructive."
Britain gave Hong Kong back to China under agreements that its broad freedoms, life standards and legal system would remain unchanged for 50 years.