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    Jan 04, 2016

    Missing HK booksellers 'kidnapped over book on Xi'


    HONG Kong lawmaker Albert Ho said yesterday he believes Chinese security officers have kidnapped five men linked to the city's Mighty Current publishing company, possibly because of a planned book about the love life of Chinese President Xi Jinping during his adolescence.

    The former chairman of the Democratic Party, who frequents the Causeway Bay bookshop under Mighty Current, said he had heard from other store regulars that the company was about to launch a book about a former girlfriend of Mr Xi.

    "There were warnings given to the owners not to publish this book. This book has not yet gone to print but it probably has something to do with this book," Agence France-Presse quoted Mr Ho as saying at a press conference yesterday.

    "We have a reason to believe he was politically abducted and illegally transferred to the mainland," Mr Ho added, referring to Lee Bo, 65, a shareholder of Mighty Current who disappeared on Wednesday.

    The whereabouts of the other four who went missing in October - Causeway Bay manager Lam Wing Kei, Mighty Current's general manager Lui Bo, business manager Cheung Jiping and the company's main shareholder Swedish national Gui Minhai - are still uncertain, although it is widely believed they are detained in China.

    Hong Kong police are trying to locate all except Mr Gui, who disappeared while in Thailand.

    There have never been reports in China about Mr Xi's love life when he was a youth but his former wife Ke Lingling, now a medical professor in London, revealed recently how they had broken up in 1982, when Mr Xi was 29, following a three-year marriage.

    The press conference by Hong Kong's opposition lawmakers yesterday was prompted by the growing unease that freedoms are being eroded in their semi-autonomous city.

    Hong Kong netizens poured forth disgust and anger online at what they see as Beijing's "boorish disregard" for their city's "sovereignty" in "taking away" their citizens, reported the Apple Daily.

    "You think such things happen only on the mainland? They come in here blind to all rules and make you 'disappear' by taking you away and then locking you up, silencing you and disguising your death as suicide. This must raise concern," singer Denise Ho wrote in her Facebook page.

    Mr Lee, who had stood in as manager of Causeway Bay, "vanished" after he went to fetch books from a warehouse in Hong Kong, his wife told the local media.

    She said her husband had called her from a mainland Chinese number later that day to tell her he was safe but would not reveal his location, the South China Morning Post reported.