Courtesy: Stuart Leavenworth and agencies/ The Guardian / Feb 12, 2016
China has committed a “serious breach” of a longstanding bilateral treaty, the British government has said, after finding that a missing bookseller was likely to have been “involuntarily removed” from the former colony of Hong Kong.
In a six-monthly report to parliament, foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, wrote that Lee Bo, a British passport holder who disappeared from Hong Kong in late December, was likely to have been taken to China against his will.
“Our current information indicates that Mr Lee was involuntarily removed to the mainland without any due process under Hong Kong SAR law,” Hammond wrote in a foreword.
The comment is far stronger than some of the previous observations by the foreign secretary. During a visit to Beijing in January, he waved off suggestions that Lee had been abducted, telling reporters “You are speculating a little bit about what has happened.”
Despite the report’s strong wording, human rights advocates and some legal scholars have criticised it, calling it a “tepid” response to what they see as China’s rapid erosion of liberties in the former British colony.
The “Six-monthly report on Hong Kong” covers the period from July through to December 2015, when five Hong Kong booksellers went missing, possibly abducted. It was also a period when civil society groups raised alarms about Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s elections, media ownership and appointments to academia.
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“I am concerned that the report expresses a seemingly neutral view of many alarming developments in Hong Kong,” said Michael C. Davis, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, in an email on Friday. Read more…