HONG KONG: One of five missing Hong Kong booksellers feared detained by Chinese authorities is a British citizen, the UK’s Foreign Office has confirmed, saying it was “deeply concerned” over the disappearances.
The case has sparked fury among legislators and activists in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, adding to growing unease that freedoms in the city are being eroded.
The statement from the Foreign Office did not specify which of the missing men was British, but it is believed to be Lee Bo, 65, the latest bookseller to go missing. He disappeared last week and was last seen in Hong Kong.
The five missing men work for the Hong Kong-based publishing house Mighty Current, known publishing books critical of China.
“We are deeply concerned by reports about the disappearance and detention of individuals associated with the Causeway Bay Books bookstore in Hong Kong,” the statement said, referring to the firm’s affiliated shop.
“We can confirm that one of the individuals is a British citizen and we have urgently requested the Hong Kong and mainland authorities’ assistance in ascertaining this individual’s welfare and whereabouts.”
The FCO urged the Hong Kong government to “honor its commitment” to press freedom. It added that it hoped Chinese authorities would “continue to make every effort to ensure that the environment in which the media and publishers operate in the Hong Kong … supports full and frank reporting.”
The statement was released as the British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, is in Beijing on a two-day official visit.
Police confirmed on Tuesday that Lee’s wife had retracted a report on her husband’s disappearance, a move Amnesty said “smacked of intimidation.” The rights group said it was common for Chinese authorities to put pressure on those close to detainees.
“One wonders whether the same sort of intimidation is being used against associates and friends of the publishers,” said Amnesty International’s China researcher, William Nee.