The UK's foreign office has confirmed that one of the five missing Hong Kong book publishers is a British citizen and has said it is "deeply concerned" over the publishers' apparent abduction and detention.
The British citizen among those who have disappeared from Causeway Bay Books bookshop and the latest to disappear is thought to be Lee Bo, 65.
The disappearances of the publishers, known for producing controversial books about the private lives of leading political figures in China, comes as they were thought to have been working on a book about the "love affairs" of China's president Xi Jinping.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned by reports about the disappearance and detention of individuals associated with the Causeway Bay Books bookstore in Hong Kong.
“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.”
Lee, a major shareholder in Mighty Current and Causeway Bay Books, was reported missing by his wife on Friday (1st January). However, police yesterday (5th January) confirmed that she tried to retract her report, while a handwritten letter from Lee has also emerged saying he is "cooperating with the authorities with an investigation".
The letter is believed to be authentic, but, activists say, it is likely to have been written under instruction. Published by Taiwan's Central News Agency, it said: "I am very well. Everything is fine. And please do look after the bookstore."
Amnesty International’s China researcher, William Nee, told the Guardian: “One wonders whether the same sort of intimidation is being used against associates and friends of the publishers.”
The case has sparked consternation in Hong Kong where freedom of expression is legally protected under the "one country, two systems" principle.