Two missing booksellers return to China hours after re-appearing in Hong Kong: Report

Mr Lui Por (second from left) and Mr Cheung Chi Ping (second from right) were among five Hong Kong booksellers who have disappeared and resurfaced in mainland Chinese police custody.
Mr Lui Por (second from left) and Mr Cheung Chi Ping (second from right) were among five Hong Kong booksellers who have disappeared and resurfaced in mainland Chinese police custody. PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Two Hong Kong booksellers released from mainland Chinese custody after going missing went straight back to China after returning home to ask police to drop their missing persons cases, a Hong Kong newspaper reported.

Mr Cheung Chi Ping and Mr Lui Por were among five Hong Kong booksellers who have disappeared over the past six months and resurfaced in mainland Chinese police custody.

Their cases have raised concern in Hong Kong that Chinese authorities are overriding a "one country, two systems" formula protecting Hong Kong's freedoms since its return to mainland China from British rule in 1997.

All five were from Causeway Bay Books, a Hong Kong book shop that specialises in gossipy political books about Chinese leaders.

Mr Cheung and Mr Lui were released on separate days last week and travelled to Hong Kong to ask police to drop their cases.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said both then crossed back into mainland China on the same days.

A spokesman from the Hong Kong police declined to comment.

Telephone calls seeking comment from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the Chinese government agency that oversees issues regarding the two former European outposts, went unanswered.

Mr Lui did not answer his telephone and the other booksellers could not immediately be reached.

The reported swift return of the two to mainland China after asking Hong Kong police to drop their cases is likely to fuel speculation about whether they are acting freely or not.

Many people in Hong Kong believe the booksellers, who have appeared in a series of confessions and interviews on Chinese television, were abducted by mainland agents.

Mainland Chinese police said in a statement last week that Mr Cheung, Mr Lui and colleague Lam Wing Kee were being investigated but would be released on bail.

It was not clear what would happen to their two other colleagues, Mr Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish national and went missing while in Thailand, and Mr Lee Bo, who is a British national and went missing from Hong Kong.

The South China Morning Post said Mr Cheung had told immigration officers at the border checkpoint that he was in a hurry. He declined to give police a formal interview or to give an official statement, the newspaper said.

This week, a series of at least 10 e-mails reviewed by Reuters showed that Mr Lee had expressed fears that Mr Gui had been taken by Chinese agents for "political reasons" before he himself went missing.