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Hong Kong: why are there fears over fundamental freedoms?

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Hong Kong: why are there fears over fundamental freedoms?

  • Five shareholders in a publishing house vanish
  • They produce books critical of Beijing
  • Protests follow appointment of pro-Beijing academic at leading university
  • Fears that fundamental freedoms are being eroded in the former British colony

What is happening in Hong Kong?

Dozens of protestors have gathered outside the Chinese goverment office in Hong Kong.

They are concerned about the disappearance of five shareholders in a publishing house that specialises in publications critical of Beijing.

65-year-old Li Bo is the latest to vanish. He disappeared on Wednesday after going to collect some books from a warehouse.

His wife says he called her from a number in mainland China to tell her he was safe. However, he would not give his location.

Police confirmed on Friday that a missing persons report has been filed on the case.

What does the publishing house produce?

Causeway Bay Books sells paperbacks highly critical of the Chinese leadership in Beijing.

They often contain details of the private lives of senior leaders and their families.

The books are banned in mainland China but are popular with Chinese tourists who come to Hong Kong.

“Smuggling industrial paint”

Protesters are also demanding the immediate release of another Hong Kong book publisher who sold books banned in mainland China.

Yiu Man-tin was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 after he was found guilty of “smuggling industrial paint”.

Why is there concern?

Li’s disappearance is the fifth such case related to the bookshop. Four other employees have vanished in mysterious circumstances in the past two months.

There are those who think the Chinese government is involved.

The disappearances have fuelled lingering concerns that China is using shadowy and illegal tactics in the former British colony, whose constitution guarantees respect for the rule of law and freedom of expression.

Some in Hong Kong fear Beijing is eroding the wide-ranging personal freedoms and independent law enforcement enshrined in the “one country, two systems” formula in place since 1997.

“If the Hong Kong and Chinese police have not arrested these publishers, they should just come out and say so. But the police have not responded to questions about this. Regarding freedom of the press and expression, it is the hidden hand of suppression that is the scariest part” said protester Avery Ng, who is Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong League of Social Democrats.

What does Beijing say?

The Liaison Office and Hong Kong Immigration Department could not be reached for comment.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, an agency of China’s State Council, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Further protests in Hong Kong about academic freedom

Large crowds of protesters also gathered in Hong Kong after a pro-Beijing official was given a senior role at the main university.

Professors, students and alumni are concerned that academic freedom is under threat, particularly in the wake of last year’s student-led pro-democracy rallies.

The government says the appointment is made on individual merit.

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