HONG KONG – A book editor whose disappearance nearly three months ago rattled civil liberties advocates in Hong Kong returned home from the Chinese mainland Thursday, police said.
Lee Bo met with Hong Kong immigration and police officers as part of an investigation upon his return but did not provide thorough information about his undocumented departure from Hong Kong, a police statement said.
He told them went to the mainland voluntarily “by his own means” to assist in a court case against a colleague and had not been abducted. The statement said Lee told officers he had been safe and free while on the mainland, and needed no assistance from Hong Kong police, but disclosed no other detail.
The comments are consistent with Lee’s earlier remarks on television and in notes to his wife, when he asked that the missing-person investigation into his Dec. 30 disappearance be dropped.
Lee was associated with Mighty Current, a small publishing house that produced works about China’s Communist leadership that were banned on the mainland.
Mighty Current publisher Gui Minhai disappeared from his apartment in Thailand in October amid concerns he had been taken to China against his will. Three other colleagues disappeared around the same time while in mainland China.
Gui appeared on Chinese state television in January, saying he had returned to China voluntarily to surrender for fleeing his suspended sentence in a 12-year-old fatal drunken driving case.
In February, Chinese state media said Gui had admitted he violated Chinese laws by shipping banned books to the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong.
Lee’s other three colleagues are free on bail in the mainland, but Gui appears to be still detained without charge. Their Causeway Bay Bookstore remains shuttered.
For decades, Hong Kong thrived as an Asian business hub thanks to its combination of Western freedoms, independent courts and closeness to mainland China’s booming market. Now political and economic ills from the mainland are eroding that edge.