Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday to protest against the alleged kidnapping of Lee Bo and four of his associates.
Lee is a shareholder of Causeway Books, a Hong Kong book store that sells controversial titles which are banned in the mainland due to their criticism of the ruling Communist Party. Lee and his associates went missing late last month.
Through China’s constitution, Hong Kong enjoys exclusive rights and autonomy from Beijing. However, activists believe mainland authorities violated these policies by kidnapping the booksellers and detaining them for questioning.
Protestors throughout the city shouted “Today’s Lee Bo is you and me tomorrow.”
Outside Hong Kong government headquarters, demonstrators carried signs reading: “Release Hong Kong booksellers now.”
Some protestors also wore yellow and carried yellow umbrellas – a reflection of major anti-China protests that shook Hong Kong in 2014.
Protests also spread online. More than 500 citizens, writers, publishers and booksellers have signed an online petition pledging to “Not fear the white terror and uphold the principle of publication freedom.”
White Terror is a term used to describe instances when authoritative regimes take action to crush political discontent.
Still, resistance is not a sentiment shared by all in Hong Kong.
Throughout the city, several book sellers have pulled controversial books from shelves. The owners of three bookstores in Hong Kong declined to be interviewed by Taipei Times out of fear of retaliation by Beijing authorities.
Lee’s wife has withdrawn a missing person’s report after claiming her husband willingly traveled to the mainland to assist authorities in an investigation.
In a recently released letter allegedly written by Lee, the bookseller reflects this notion and urges people not to protest over his situation.
The four other booksellers have not been accounted for.
Nonetheless, Hong Kong officials in a statement said they are “firmly committed to protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of publication.” They added they are investigating the missing persons’ cases and are seeking help from Chinese authorities.
The Guangdong and Shenzhen Public Security Bureau, and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, have remained silent on the issue.
“Nobody is safe in Hong Kong now,” said Bao Pu in an interview with Taipei Times. Pu published the secret memoirs of former Chinese Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was purged following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre..