The influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament is considering an inquiry into the country's economic ties with China, and in particular their implications for human rights.
The disclosure comes a day after thousands marched in Hong Kong to demand explanations from Beijing over the fate of a co-owner of a Hong Kong–based political publishing house. British citizen Paul Lee, also known as Lee Bo, vanished in late December, leading to widespread speculation that he had been abducted in Hong Kong by mainland Chinese agents and taken to China in flagrant violation of Hong Kong's autonomy.
The proposed parliamentary audit, the South China Morning Post reports, would examine the increasingly warm trade relationship between the U.K. and China, marked by — among other projects — a possible Chinese-built high-speed railway in the U.K.
Recent history suggests such an investigation would irritate Beijing, the Post says. China barred British parliamentarians from entering the country after a similar probe was announced two years ago.
Lee is the fifth person connected to Mighty Current Media, which specializes in books critical of Chinese leaders, to have disappeared. Another co-owner, Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, failed to return from a holiday in Thailand last October. The company’s general manager and two other staff are also missing.
Their fates have triggered global concern and renewed scrutiny of human rights in China, a topic U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne declined to raise during a state visit in September 2015.