Since October, five people connected to a publishing house in Hong Kong have mysteriously disappeared. The publishing house, Mighty Current, has published books critical of Chinese Communist Party officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Gui Minhai, the owner of Mighty Current, vanished October 17 from a sea-side apartment in Thailand. Later that month, two staff members of Causeway Bay Bookstore, which is partially owned by Mighty Current, went missing during a trip to mainland China. A fourth man connected to the publishing house also disappeared in October, most likely in Hong Kong or Shenzhen. On January 1, reports surfaced that Lee Bo, a business partner of Gui Minhai, had gone to visit a warehouse in Hong Kong used by the publishing company, and did not return home. Hong Kong media have reported that security camera footage showed a mysterious man wearing a cap following Lee Bo both when he entered and exited the elevator of the warehouse. An eyewitness reportedly saw several people push Lee into a van after he exited the building.
Thousands of residents of Hong Kong took to the streets to protest the disappearances. Among other slogans, protesters reportedly shouted “no to cross-border abductions” and “stop political kidnapping.” Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying expressed concern over Hong Kong residents’ rights and safety, and said it would be “unacceptable” if mainland Chinese authorities were seeking to enforce laws in Hong Kong. That, he said, would be a breach of the Basic Law, a document that enshrines the principle of “one country, two systems” and guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and its own legal system. The Basic Law also guarantees freedom of speech in Hong Kong.
At a press briefing, U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the United States is “disturbed by reports of the disappearances of five people associated with the Mighty Current publishing house…We share the concern of the people of Hong Kong regarding these disappearances,” said Mr. Kirby. “We noted the January 4th statement by Hong Kong’s chief executive expressing concerns about the potential implications of this case, and we share those concerns.”