Author publishes missing Hong Kong booksellers' title online

Author publishes missing Hong Kong booksellers' title online

The author of a controversial book on China's president has released the title online.

The provocative book, believed to be the reason five booksellers from the Mighty Current publishing house in Hong Kong went missing between October and December 2015, is a tell-all about the love life of China's president, Xi Jinping, entitled Xi Jinping and His Lover.

Its US-based Chinese author, who writes under the pseudonym Xi Nuo, told the BBC he published it online to challenge the Chinese authorities and that the publishers should not be held responsible. His co-author has not been named in the interests of safety.

The book was completed in 2014, but publisher Gui Minhai decided against releasing it, according to Xi Nuo, following a visit from a Chinese government agent.

Described by the BBC as "written in simple and almost vulgur language", the title is presented as a work of fiction but includes real life figures, with details of purported affairs of China's leader as well as "alleged incidents" within his marriages.

Xi Nuo told the BBC: "I decided to publish this book. I want to tell the Chinese authorities and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that you are wrong. Completely wrong. You better release the five guys. Let them go back home."

Swedish national Gui was the first of the five booksellers to go missing, disappearing from his holiday home Thailand in October before reemerging with a dubious confession on China State TV in mid-January. Prior to his disappearance, his last communication had been an email informing his printers of a new book he would be sending over the proofs for shortly. He never did. 

Three of Gui's colleagues went missing in the days following his disappearance, with a fifth colleague, UK national Lee Bo, reported missing by his wife on 1st January. A letter apparently from Lee criticised the conduct of Gui following his confession. Human rights organisations have been quick to point out it could have been written under duress. Torner, executive director of PEN International, said: "We know that China has all too often resorted to enforced disappearances to pressure critical voices to recant or ‘confess’ to alleged ‘offences’ when they have merely been expressing themselves freely."

In the autumn Lee explained why he thought his colleagues had vanished: “I think [it has happened] probably because of publishing matters... political books banned on the mainland,” he said.

Any clampdown on freedom of speech contravenes the principle of "one country, two systems”, that provided HK would be given "a high degree of autonomy" from China for at least 50 years, "except in foreign and defence affairs".