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Members of student group Scholarism hold up placards during a protest about the disappearances of booksellers outside China's liaison office in Hong Kong, China
Members of student group Scholarism hold up placards during a protest about the disappearances of booksellers outside China's liaison office in Hong Kong, China January 6, 2016.  Bobby Yip—REUTERS

The E.U. Has Called for an Investigation Into the Missing Hong Kong Booksellers

Jan 08, 2016

The European Union is calling for an investigation into the recent disappearance of five individuals connected to a Hong Kong–based publisher of books critical of China. Two of the missing persons are citizens of E.U. member states.

In a statement released on Thursday, the E.U.'s diplomatic agency described the case as "extremely worrying," and decried the "continuing lack of information about the well-being and whereabouts" of the missing owners and staff of Mighty Current Media, which is notorious for its salacious texts on top mainland Chinese officials and business figures.

The prevailing suspicion in Hong Kong is that the men have been detained by Chinese authorities. A co-owner of Mighty Current Media, naturalized Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, failed to return from a holiday in Thailand last October. It is widely speculated that the other co-owner, British citizen Paul Lee, otherwise known as Lee Bo, was snatched from Hong Kong by mainland police, who, if that was the case, would have been flagrantly exceeding their jurisdiction and violating the territory's autonomy.

"As Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has stated, it would be a violation of [Hong Kong's constitution] if, as media allege, mainland law enforcement agencies had been operating in Hong Kong," the statement reads.

79 Days That Shook Hong Kong

Pro-democracy demonstrators are sprayed with pepper spray during clashes with police officers during a rally near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.
Pro-democracy demonstrators are sprayed with pepper spray during clashes with police officers during a rally near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.Xaume Olleros—AFP/Getty Images
Pro-democracy demonstrators are sprayed with pepper spray during clashes with police officers during a rally near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.
A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 28, 2014.
Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sept. 28, 2014.
Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on Sept. 29, 2014.
A protester raises his arms as police officers try to disperse the crowd near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2014.
Protesters gather in the streets outside the Hong Kong Government Complex on Sept. 29, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy demonstrators hold up their mobile phones during a protest near the Hong Kong government headquarters on Sept. 29, 2014.
A protester sleeps on the streets outside the Hong Kong Government Complex at sunrise on Sept. 30, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Protesters take part in a rally on a street outside of Hong Kong Government Complex on Sept. 30, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong Oct.1, 2014.
Protesters react as Joshua Wong (not pictured), leader of the student movement, speaks to the crowd outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong, Oct.1, 2014.
A protester holding an umbrella stands on the street close to the Hong Kong Government Complex on Oct.1, 2014 in Hong Kong.
A local resident breaks through police lines and attempts to reach the pro-democracy tent on Oct. 3, 2014 in Mong Kok, Hong Kong.
Policemen try to get a man to let go of a fence guarded by pro-democracy demonstrators in an occupied area of Hong Kong on Oct. 3, 2014.
A pro-democracy protester sleeps on a concrete road divider on a street outside the Hong Kong Government Complex on Oct. 5, 2014 in Hong Kong.
The statue "Umbrella Man" by the Hong Kong artist known as Milk, is set up at a pro-democracy protest site next to the central government offices in Hong Kong on Oct. 5, 2014.
A pro-democracy protester uses bamboo to strengthen a barricade blocking a major road in Hong Kong on Oct. 13, 2014.
Demonstrators walk past notes hanging on a wall outside the Central Government Offices in the Admiralty business district in Hong Kong on Oct. 17, 2014.
Tents set up by pro-democracy protesters are seen in an occupied area outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty district, Nov. 12, 2014.
A young Hong Kong couple who did not give their names wear gas masks as they pose for a wedding photographer prior to their marriage next to the tents used by pro-deocracy demonstrators at the Admiralty protest site on Nov. 14, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Police face pro-democracy protesters on Nov. 19, 2014 outside the central government offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy activists join arms as they face off with police outside the Legislative Council building on Nov. 19, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Police officers disperse pro-democracy protesters outside the Legislative Council building after clashes with pro-democracy activists on Nov. 19, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy protesters climb up a wall as police officers disperse them outside the Legislative Council building after clashes with pro-democracy activists on Nov. 19, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy activists sleep outside the Legislative Council building after protesters clashed with police on Nov. 19, 2014 in Hong Kong.
Police arrest a pro-democracy protester on Lung Wo Road outside Hong Kong's Government complex on Nov. 30, 2014 in Hong Kong.
A young student studies in a makeshift classroom set up on a main road at a major pro-democracy protest site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Dec. 1, 2014.
A demonstrator is taken away by policemen, at an area previously blocked by pro-democracy supporters, outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Dec. 11, 2014.
Pro-democracy protesters remove signs placed up during the past two months of protests from the area around the protest camp but leave intact the notice "We are dreamers" in the Admiralty in Hong Kong on Dec. 11, 2014.
Hong Kong police dismantle the remains of the pro-democracy protest camp in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Dec. 11, 2014.
Pro-democracy demonstrators are sprayed with pepper spray during clashes with police officers during a rally near the Ho
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Xaume Olleros—AFP/Getty Images
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Continued alarm over the fate of the booksellers comes amid news that the government-run Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has sacked two presenters who were prominent in last year's Umbrella Revolution. Both Chan Ka-ming and Shiu Ka-chun say they were told to either downplay or refrain from mentioning the 79-day pro-democracy street occupations, according to the South China Morning Post.

RTHK strongly denies any political motivation in the dismissal of the presenters, but the timing of their discharge — coming alongside Lee's alleged abduction and the news that a popular chain of bookstores has pulled from their shelves works that would be banned in China — has only fueled fears that Hong Kong's constitution, known as the Basic Law, is failing to maintain the autonomy of Hong Kong, which was a British colony until 1997.

Under Hong Kong law, citizens enjoy a litany of freedoms that mainland Chinese do not — such as freedom of speech, under which may fall the right to publish sensational books about the sex lives of Communist Party chiefs. But when thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets during last year's Umbrella Revolution, they did so acting on "a broader perception that Hong Kong's rule of law has been undermined," Michael Davis, an expert in Hong Kong and Chinese law at the University of Hong Kong, told TIME on Wednesday.

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