Why Do Staffers From This Hong Kong Book Store Keep Disappearing?

Source: AP
Source: AP

Tucked away up a flight of stairs, Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong is surprisingly nondescript, especially given the international speculation surrounding the small store and its employees. 

Since October, five of its employees have mysteriously disappeared. And the plot is only thickening, with many of the city's residents believing the employees were abducted by Chinese secret agents as retribution for selling controversial books that criticize the ruling authority. 

Formerly a British colony, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 and is now a "special administrative region of China," BBC explains. However, the territory has maintained a high level of autonomy and has its own government. While China technically has political vetoing power, the expectation is that the country won't dramatically interfere with Hong Kong politics. 

Most recently, one of the Causeway Bay Books shareholders, Lee Bo, went missing on Wednesday. Lee's wife reported his disappearance, but when she eventually heard from him, the bizarre nature of the call only added fuel to the conspiracists' fire. 

"He said he wouldn't be back so soon and he was assisting in an investigation," Lee's wife allegedly told Hong Kong's Cable Television, BBC reported.

Not only did he sound beleaguered, but he also communicated in the official Chinese language, Mandarin, as opposed to his usual Cantonese, his wife also said, according to the Economist.

Source: Vincent Yu/AP

"Mrs. Lee said her husband had called from Shenzhen, a mainland city bordering on Hong Kong," the Economist reported. "Yet police in Hong Kong say they have found no record of him having crossed the boundary. Mr. Lee did not take his mainland travel permit, his wife said."

According to a Reuters and Vice News report, the Taiwanese Central News Agency published a handwritten note Lee faxed to his wife.

"Due to some urgent matters that I need to handle and that aren't to be revealed to the public, I have made my own way back to the mainland in order to cooperate with the investigation by relevant parties," the note apparently read. "It might take a bit of time. My current situation is very well. All is normal." 

Four other colleagues affiliated with Causeway Bay Books have also gone missing under mysterious and similar circumstances, except for one of the employees who was vacationing in Thailand upon his disappearance.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who is widely regarded as a stooge for mainland China's central government, surprised many during a Monday press conference with his open criticism of such practices.

"The freedom of the press, the freedom of publication and the freedom of expression are protected by laws in Hong Kong," Leung said. "It is unacceptable if mainland legal agencies enforced law in Hong Kong as it is against the Basic Law."

Still, Leung's noted there was "no indication" Chinese agents had been abducting Hong Kong residents. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Natasha Noman

Natasha is a News Staff Writer covering global affairs. She previously reported on regional affairs from Pakistan. Natasha is based in New York and can be reached at natasha@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Watchdog groups sue Trump for deleting tweets, allegedly violating Presidential Records Act

Trump's deleted tweets may come back to haunt him.

Grizzly bear protections in Yellowstone National park are ending

A final ruling by US government officials will strike the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the list of threatened species after its population increased to 700.

Another day, another off-camera White House press briefing

The move to scale back on-camera press briefings comes amid Trump's increasing unwillingness to interact with the press.

Minneapolis might get a $15 minimum wage, but restaurant workers aren't celebrating

Discord has been brewing in Minneapolis over whether tipped work will be counted toward a $15 minimum wage.

These abysmal new poll numbers for House health care bill don't bode well for Senate version

Only 34% of Republicans approve of the new proposed law.

'Pizzagate' shooter gets 4-year prison sentence, lawyers urged judge to deter vigilantism

Welch stormed a Washington, D.C., pizza place and shot off a firearm because of the internet.

Watchdog groups sue Trump for deleting tweets, allegedly violating Presidential Records Act

Trump's deleted tweets may come back to haunt him.

Grizzly bear protections in Yellowstone National park are ending

A final ruling by US government officials will strike the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the list of threatened species after its population increased to 700.

Another day, another off-camera White House press briefing

The move to scale back on-camera press briefings comes amid Trump's increasing unwillingness to interact with the press.

Minneapolis might get a $15 minimum wage, but restaurant workers aren't celebrating

Discord has been brewing in Minneapolis over whether tipped work will be counted toward a $15 minimum wage.

These abysmal new poll numbers for House health care bill don't bode well for Senate version

Only 34% of Republicans approve of the new proposed law.

'Pizzagate' shooter gets 4-year prison sentence, lawyers urged judge to deter vigilantism

Welch stormed a Washington, D.C., pizza place and shot off a firearm because of the internet.