BA calls on Hammond to intervene over Hong Kong bookseller

BA calls on Hammond to intervene over Hong Kong bookseller

Tim Godfray, chief executive of The Booksellers Association (BA), has written to the foreign secretary, asking that the government "thoroughly investigates all the facts" relating to the disappearances of missing Hong Kong booksellers, who include British passport-holder Lee Bo.

In a letter sent last week (12th January) to foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Godfray raised "the gravest concerns" that the Chinese government is "not respecting the 'one country, two systems' principle".

The booksellers, who are also publishers, are reported to be in detention over the production of politically sensitive books that are critical of leading figures on the Chinese mainland. This is being interpreted as an attack on the independence of Hong Kong's legal system which upholds liberties such as freedom of speech. 

Ahead of Britain handing former colony Hong Kong back to China in 1997, an agreement between Britain and China in 1984 declared that HK's social, economic and legal systems would remain unchanged. The principle of "one country, two systems" provided that HK would be given "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for at least 50 years.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has said on the topic: "We will continue to uphold the principles of ‘one country, two systems’". However, he also said that Lee, who holds a British passport, is "first and foremost a Chinese citizen".

Chinese police recently confirmed to Hong Kong authorities that Lee is in China; China has yet to explain how he got across the border.

A dubious "confession" from one of the booksellers, Gui Minhai, who went missing from his beachfront home in Thailand in October, recently aired on China state television, in which he claimed he voluntarily surrendered himself to Chinese authorities. An investigation is currently underway on the part of Thai authorities as to why Minhai  "never formally left the country", according to TIME.

Godfray wrote: "As the bookshop and its related publishing house, Mighty Current, are known for expressing views critical of the Communist Chinese Government, these events cannot be viewed in isolation but must raise the gravest concerns that the Chinese Government in Beijing is not respecting the 'one country, two systems' principle agreed between the United Kingdom and China and due to last in Hong Kong until 2047.

"We understand that Mr Bo is a British passport holder and we utterly deplore this treatment of one of our colleagues.

"We would ask that HM Government thoroughly investigates all the facts pertaining to the fate of Mr Bo and his colleagues and express in no uncertain terms its full support for Mr Bo and his colleagues and, should these reports be accurate, seek to restore both their liberty and freedom of expression at the earliest possible moment."