Mystery builds as Causeway Bay Books' bookseller’s wife calls off search

Mystery builds as Causeway Bay Books' bookseller’s wife calls off search

Publisher Lee Bo was last seen on December 30, and reported missing two days later, but now his wife says he’s been in contact and is ‘very good’

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People's Recreation Community is a bookstore & cafe located on 8 Russell Street in Causeway Bay.
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP

The case of the missing bookseller Lee Bo, 65, took a new turn on Monday afternoon as his wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping, cancelled her request for police help, claiming Lee had been in contact. Lee went missing on December 30, and Choi reported him missing on January 1. But on Monday she went to North Point Police Station and told officers that her husband’s friend had been able to contact him. It was not known if Lee was in Hong Kong or in Shenzhen, or if he was safe or not.

The Central News Agency on Monday night published a handwritten letter said to be faxed by Lee to his bookstore colleague, saying: “I had to handle the issue concerned urgently and cannot let outsiders know it. I returned to mainland my own way and am working with the concerned parties in an investigation which may take a while.”

In the letter – dated on Sunday – he told the workers to continue operating the bookshop. “I’m now very good and everything is normal,” he added.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said investigations into the missing booksellers would continue, repeating once again that the government was highly concerned about the situation.

“We have been investigating the case. I hope anyone, especially Mr Lee Bo, can contact the police and provide information,” Leung said after the Executive Council meetings yesterday.

Leung did not comment on the latest developments, including the letter allegedly written by Lee, and the withdrawal of the request for help by Lee’s wife. He declined to disclose further details.

Earlier on Monday, Leung said it was unacceptable and unconstitutional for mainland agencies to take law enforcement action in Hong Kong. It was his first comment on the case amid speculation that Lee was taken out of Hong Kong by mainland enforcement personnel.

Bookstore boss Lee Bo was last seen on Wednesday in the Chai Wan warehouse of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookshop Causeway Bay Books. He is the fifth missing person from the bookstore, which sells books critical of President Xi Jinping. The four other missing men include publishing house owner Gui Minhai, general manager Lui Bo, business manager Cheung Jiping and bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei.

The case has made people in the industry nervous. “Among the books about Xi in the market, 70 to 80 per cent of them were published by Lee Bo,” said a publisher familiar with the matter, adding that many publishing houses that printed those books were either being controlled or in partnership with Lee. “I think [the disappearance] is not about the content of particular books, but about their attitude.”

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