China detains Hong Kong publisher due to release dissident's book: Report

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong publisher, who was due to release a dissident's book about Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been detained in China for almost three months, a report said on Tuesday.

Yao Wentian, the 73-year-old chief editor of Morning Bell Press, was surrounded by a dozen plain-clothes security agents and detained late October after he was "lured" to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the South China Morning Post said.

Citing sources close to Mr Yao's wife, the report said he was being held in a detention centre and police have not disclosed the charges against him, which may include smuggling and evasion of import tariffs.

Mr Yao was working with US-based author and dissident Yu Jie to publish his book "Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping".

"I think his work on my Xi Jinping book is the main reason why he's been detained," Mr Yu told the Post, adding that Mr Yao disappeared just as the book was about to be published.

Morning Bell Press was not available for comment when contacted on Tuesday.

Mr Yu had said on Facebook that the first draft of his book on Mr Xi was complete and was expected to be released in April.

Mr Yu had previously authored "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao", a scathing critique on the nation's former premier.

In 2012, Mr Yao complained to Google, saying his Gmail account had been hacked while he prepared to release Mr Yu's "Hu Jintao: Harmony King", a book on China's former president.

Censored Chinese books have become a big seller in the former British colony of Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region of China.

China came 173rd in a press freedom ranking of 179 countries issued by the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders last year, climbing one place on the previous year.

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