Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Latest Commentary on the Lee Bo Case in Hong Kong

Simon Young
South China Morning Post
20 January 2016
Many feel “one country, two systems” has suffered a serious blow from the mysterious circumstances of Lee Bo’s case, but it is too soon to conclude that the Basic Law has been violated.
     If Lee crossed the border voluntarily and on his own, there would be no Basic Law issue. If private individuals unconnected to the mainland government were involved in forcing or persuading Lee to cross the border then, again, it is difficult to see this as a constitutional crisis, even though such individuals may have committed ordinary crimes.
     There are a number of indications, however, that mainland officials were implicated in Lee’s entry. First there are Lee’s statements that he is “assisting an investigation” on the mainland. The nature of the books sold by Lee’s bookstore, coupled with the disappearances of his four associates, suggest a criminal investigation into offences of spreading rumours or slander to subvert state power or other national security offences.
     Then there was the entry itself without the usual immigration clearances, suggesting official intervention. Finally, there is the unexplained need for Lee and his associates to remain on the mainland indefinitely if the “investigation” relates only to their associate Gui Minhai’s alleged case of vehicle homicide.
     Even if mainland officials were involved, this does not necessarily mean the Basic Law was breached because there are grey areas when it comes to cross-border criminal investigations.
      Certainly an abduction and forced rendition by mainland officials would constitute a serious infringement of the “one country, two systems” principle, but there are multiple ways to cause someone to cross the border. A chat in acha chaan teng, a phone call or a text message may be all that is needed to incite a person to make the trip... Click here to read the full article.

Jeffie Lam and Eddie Lee
South China Morning Post
19 January 2016
A person on a suspended jail term on the mainland cannot leave the country without official permission and authorities would not only keep a close watch on anyone fleeing but make a real effort to track them down, say legal experts. Once the law caught up with the offender, he would have to serve his sentence in prison.
     This was why legal eagles and observers said they found it mystifying, and unconvincing, that Gui Minhai had eluded arrest for more than 12 years and decided to turn himself only now and – of all places – while in a foreign land.
     Gui – one of the five missing shareholders and staff of publishing house Mighty Current which is linked to Causeway Bay Books – disappeared in mid-October after he was last seen at his apartment in the seaside town of Pattaya in Thailand.
     On Sunday night, he appeared in a recorded interview broadcast by China Central Television, in which he said he had surrendered out of guilt for killing a 23-year-old student while drink-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, in 2004. The confession contrasted starkly with the widely held suspicion that he was abducted by mainland law enforcement agencies in Thailand for selling books that are banned by China.
     Professor Fu Hualing, a legal expert on the mainland criminal justice system, said he found it “totally illogical” for Gui to turn himself in now, after being on the run for so long.
     “It is very shocking that after so many years Gui voluntarily went back,” said Fu. “A person, after so many years, suddenly finds his conscience and wants to return. What I can say is we have an official story but what else … is anybody’s guess.”
     Fu said the personal freedom of people on a suspended prison term would be curtailed and they could not leave the country lawfully without official permission. Should the person violate the condition, as in Gui’s alleged case, he or she would be placed on the wanted list immediately and would have to serve the original sentence in jail... Click here to read the full article.

"Hong Kong's Missing Booksellers Expose Publishing Underbelly"
David Tweed and Ting Shi
20 January 2016
Sandwiched between a pharmacy and a discount clothing store in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay neighborhood is a narrow staircase leading to a shuttered bookshop that has become a symbol of the fears of China’s encroachment in the former British colony.
     Causeway Bay Books is one of the city’s best known “upstairs bookshops,” which sell titles such as “Overseas Mistresses of the Chinese Communist Party,” and “Secrets of Wives of CCP Officials” to mainland tourists hungry for the salacious and often thinly sourced tales about the alleged peccadilloes of their leaders. Outside hangs a sign in Chinese warning would-be customers to “watch out for police.”
     The store, located in the shadows of one the world’s priciest shopping districts, has been shut since late December when its owner Lee Bo vanished from the city. With Hong Kong authorities pressing for information, Chinese police confirmed Jan. 18 that Lee was in the mainland, without explaining how the bookseller got across the border without the required travel permit or the knowledge of Hong Kong immigration.
     “A disappearance off the streets raises questions in ordinary people’s minds about the future of Hong Kong and whether its distinctive qualities with which most Hong Kong people identify will be maintained,” said Michael Davis, a Hong Kong University law professor... Click here to read the full article.

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