Two jailed for selling HK-published books

HONG KONG • Two people have been jailed in China for illegally selling books published in Hong Kong, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP), citing two sources familiar with the matter.

The case was handled by the same police bureau that investigated five people linked to Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong who went missing from their homes two years ago, one of the sources told SCMP.

The two men jailed in the latest case are Dai Xuelin, a Beijing-based social media editor at the Guangxi Normal University Press, and his business partner Zhang Xiaoxiong, the sources said.

Dai was jailed for five years and Zhang was given a 31/2-year prison term for running an "illegal business operation", according to the sources, reported SCMP.

The sentences were handed down by a court in Ningbo in Zhejiang province earlier this month, the sources said.

The pair had bought Hong Kong- published books not authorised for sale on the mainland from another distributor in China, one of the sources said.

Among the books sold by Dai and Zhang singled out by investigators was How The Red Sun Rose, an academic work written by prominent mainland historian Gao Hua, one source said.

The Hong Kong-published book uses Communist Party documents to discuss the role of former leader Mao Zedong in the party's bloody internal purges in the 1940s.

It is not clear whether the pair had direct business links with booksellers at Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in selling politically sensitive books banned in China.

One of the five booksellers, China-born Gui Minhai, is still in custody in China. The others have returned to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has seen the publication and sale of politically sensitive books about China flourish in recent years.

The books have been highly popular among mainland tourists as they often include political gossip about top government leaders, content banned on the other side of the border, reported SCMP.

Meanwhile, missing China-born billionaire Xiao Jianhua was reportedly whisked in a wheelchair from a luxury Hong Kong hotel in the early hours of Jan 27, with his head covered, a source close to the businessman told Reuters.

Despite a statement issued in his name over 10 days ago that he was seeking medical treatment overseas and had not been abducted, his disappearance has rekindled fears over Hong Kong's status as an independent judicial entity of China.

China's Ministry of State Security, Foreign Ministry and Public Security Bureau have so far not responded to Reuters' requests for comment on whether Chinese agents were involved in Mr Xiao's disappearance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Two jailed for selling HK-published books'. Print Edition | Subscribe