Lee Po, one of the missing booksellers from Causeway Bay Books appeared on television and admitted for the first time he had sneaked into the mainland illegally to assist in an investigation,
Lee, who runs the bookstore specialising in selling politically sensitive publications banned on the mainland, reiterated in the 20-minute interview aired by Phoenix TV on Monday night that he had visited the mainland of his own free will to assist as a witness in an investigation into Gui Minhai, co-owner of publishing house Mighty Current, which runs the bookstore.
Lee appeared calm and smiled throughout the interview, conducted in a well decorated room in an unknown location
On the mystery surrounding his disappearance, Lee said: “I sneaked into the mainland with the help of a friend [or friends] so I didn’t use my home return permit.”
But he declined to elaborate. “It’s not convenient to disclose the details,” he said.
He explained the fact that the investigation might make someone angry which might bring harm to him and his family was the reason he adopted a secret way to visit the mainland without using his travel document.
“I wanted to secretly visit the mainland and solve my own matters as soon as possible, and then return home secretly,” Lee said.
The interview was aired hours after Hong Kong police disclosed they had met Lee in a guest house at an undisclosed location on the mainland, six weeks after they have asked for a meeting with Lee.
Through the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, a Hong Kong police officer and an immigration officer met the bookseller on Monday morning and took a statement from him. A police source said Lee was not in Guangdong.
He again asked them to cancel his case and informed them he did not need any help from the Hong Kong government. Lee said he would return home when the investigation was over.
The content of Phoenix TV’s interview was also carried on Monday night by Shanghai-based online portal Thepaper.cn and Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily’s website,
Lee dismissed speculation that he was in trouble for buying sex on the mainland or blackmailing public figures there by publishing books with material on their negative side.
He said Gui had published a lot of books about mainland issues in recent years, but all these books were compiled carelessly with copied and in some cases fabricated material.
“I was to blame too. And I took this opportunity to confess my wrongdoing.”
He also said he had not yet been able to go home as the investigation was continuing. But he could return whenever his assistance was finished.
The British citizen said he had never sought help from the UK government and he had always called himself a “Hongkonger” and a “Chinese.”
He said he and his wife had decided to abandon their UK citizenship as this had complicated the case.
He had notified the British side about their decision.
“I haven’t been to Britain for more than 20 years. And I haven’t enjoyed any rights or benefits as a citizen.”
The couple’s daughter is studying at a British university where she is paying fees imposed on ordinary foreign students, he said.
“My life now on the mainland is very good. I’m very safe and free. And you can see my health is still not bad. I get along well with the law enforcement workers, who treat me well,” Lee said.
Two pictures of the couple taken on the mainland during the Lunar New Year holiday were also made available with reports about the interview.
Lee said his wife Sophie Choi Ka-ping had met him and they had had some fun.