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Is Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Policy Being Threatened?

Hundreds of protesters march during an annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, Friday, July 1, 2016

Hundreds of protesters march during an annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, Friday, July 1, 2016

China’s detention of five Hong Kong booksellers has raised concerns about its support for the “one country, two systems” policy.

The policy was put in place when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. It was to ensure Hong Kong’s right to govern itself for 50 years -- until 2047.

Over three months in late 2015, four booksellers based in Hong Kong disappeared while they were away from the city. Lee Bo is the general manager of the publishing company where the four worked. He also disappeared. He was the only one who disappeared while he was in Hong Kong.

All five reappeared in January and February. They said on television that they had been detained by Chinese officials for selling books that mainland Chinese are not permitted to read. China let Lee and two others return to Hong Kong in March on bail. Lam Wing-kee was released later.

At a news conference in Hong Kong last month, Lam said Chinese security agents kept him in a cell by himself for five months n the eastern city of Ningbo. He said they forced him to give up his legal rights and confess to so-called crimes on television.

Many people were angered by Lam’s story of poor treatment for publishing and selling books that were legal in Hong Kong. Members of pro-democracy parties said Hong Kong’s right to govern itself had been violated. They noted that Article 4 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law -- or constitution -- protects freedom of speech and publication.

Seanon Wong is a professor of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In an interview with VOA, he said China wanted to know who bought books from him and who wrote the books.

“This is a direct attack against the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. People will no longer feel safe to publish or purchase politically-sensitive items in Hong Kong,” Wong said.

Wong Guangya is the director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. He spoke in Beijing this month. He accused Lam Wing-kee and his colleagues of destroying the policy of “one country, two systems” by publishing and selling books that attack China’s political system.

Leung Chun-ying is the chief executive of Hong Kong. Last month he said he would tell China’s central government that many people are worried about the detention of the booksellers.

He said he would also call for a review of how law-enforcement agencies in Hong Kong and mainland China announce when residents of the territory are detained in China.

Democratic Party leader Emily Lau recently spoke on VOA’s Asia Weekly podcast. She called on Chief Executive Leung to travel to Beijing to tell Chinese leaders that the “one country, two systems” policy is threatened.

Regina Ip is a lawmaker in Hong Kong who supports the Chinese government. VOA asked for her opinion about the detention of the booksellers, but she did not answer.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Correspondent Kinnie Li reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

bail – n. an amount of money given to a court to let a prisoner to leave jail and return later for a trial

principle – n. a basic truth or theory; an idea that forms the basis of something

purchase – v. to buy (property, goods, etc.); to get (something) by paying money for it

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