Hong Kong bookseller and publisher Lee Bo who went missing last year, has refuted claims that he was kidnapped by Chinese authorities, saying he had snuck into the country illegally and that he would renounce his British citizenship.
Lee, a British and Hong Kong citizen, was the fifth bookseller to go missing from the Causeway Bay Bookshop and Mighty Current publishing house responsible for producing salacious books critical of leading political figures in China, when he disappeared in December.
Four of the other booksellers, including Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, confirmed on Chinese television on Sunday (28th February) that they had been detained for "illegal book trading" in mainland China, Reuters has reported.
Lee gave the first detailed account of his disappearance from Hong Kong in December during an interview with China’s Phoenix Television on Monday (29th February). He said he had returned to China voluntarily.
"I have always felt that I'm a Hong Kong citizen, a Chinese citizen, and because people have used my British nationality to sensationalize and make the situation more complicated, that's why I'm deciding to give up my British nationality," Lee said. "Why have I acted so mysteriously? It's because I've had to assist with a mainland Chinese investigation and it required testifying against some people."
Lee said he used an "illegal means to sneak there and didn't use [his] Chinese home return permit" as he was afraid of reprisals from those he was testifying against.
According to Reuters, he appeared “calm” during the interview.
Some politicians have expressed scepticism about the situation and have said Lee may have been pressured to try to erase perceptions of Chinese authorities carrying out illegal cross-border enforcement operations.
James To, a lawmaker with the Democratic Party, said: "I don't know who helped him sneak over... Was he forced by Chinese police or state security agents? There is still a big question mark."
Hong Kong security secretary Lai Tung-kwok said Hong Kong police would follow up to further clarify the circumstances of Lee's case, including how he had entered China.