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Missing Booksellers Raise Fear of Lost Freedom in Hong Kong

Pro-democracy lawmakers display portraits of Lee Bo, one of the five booksellers who disappeared from a local bookstore, as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying speaks during his annual policy address at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Jan. 13, 2016. The
Missing Booksellers Raise Fear of Lost Freedoms in Hong Kong
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Chinese security forces confirmed they are holding Lee Bo, one of five book publishers who recently disappeared.

Lee is a small publisher of books about China and its leaders. He was last seen December 30 on his way to his warehouse.

Lee publishes books that are critical of the Chinese government and detail the personal lives of government officials.

These officials do not want the public knowing about their personal affairs.

Until the confirmation, no one had heard from Lee for weeks. His wife received a message in early January that he was alright, according to a report by the Reuters news service.

The confirmation that Lee is in China came because of an inquiry from the Hong Kong police.

Gui Minhai is another missing bookseller. He was last seen in October in Thailand. But he resurfaced during a state media broadcast on Sunday.

Gui says he returned to China to answer for his role in killing a student during a traffic accident over 10 years ago.

In an interview with Reuters, Gui’s daughter says the allegation that her father was involved in an accident is “ridiculous.” She says she thinks her father was abducted because of his work.

Two of five missing publishers have now been heard from, but questions remain about freedoms in Hong Kong.

The case of the missing booksellers is important for Hong Kong because the island’s residents are supposed to have different rights and protections than people who live in China.

Those rights are part of Hong Kong’s “Basic Law” which provides freedom from arbitrary arrests and the right to elect a chief executive for the island.

Albert Ho is a member of the Hong Kong Democratic Party. He says the disappearances of Lee and other publishers is a problem.

“It is very threatening to the Hong Kong people, because it is related to the basic personal safety and the security of the city. It is much more than a question of political development or democratization. It concerns whether any Hong Kong citizen is vulnerable to being taken away or kidnapped.”

The disappearances prompted protest marches earlier in January.

They also resulted in some Hong Kong bookstores removing the contested books from their shelves.

William Nee works with the human rights organization Amnesty International. He says the government in Hong Kong needs to do more to be sure the territory’s rights are protected.

“You know, the government needs to continue over the long run to be very vigilant in ensuring that the rights guaranteed in the Basic Law are actually implemented.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Shannon Van Sant wrote this story for Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Do you think the missing booksellers in Hong Kong are being silenced? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

abduct – v. to take (someone) away from a place by force

allegation – n. a statement saying that someone has done something wrong or illegal

executive – n. a person who manages or directs other people in a company or organization

contest – v. to make (something) the subject of an argument or a legal case : to say that you do not agree with or accept

vigilant – adj. carefully noticing problems or signs of danger

vulnerable – adj. open to attack, harm, or damage