On Monday evening, Hong Kong police finally received the reply that everyone had been waiting for, a message from Guangdong police confirming that the missing HK bookseller Lee Bo is in fact in mainland China.
The message was finally received 17 days after an inquiry was first made. Inside, Guangdong officials stated they “understood that Lee Po [sic] is in the mainland.”
— Danny Lee (@JournoDannyAsia) January 18, 2016
Hong Kong police have requested a meeting with Lee to better understand the situation.
Included along with the message was a letter from Lee addressed to a Hong Kong “relevant government department.” The contents of the letter were similar to that of a letter received by Lee’s wife on Monday:
— BenjaminRobertson李博岳 (@BRobertsonSCMP) January 19, 2016
Lee is the most famous of a group of five missing shareholders and staff associated with Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Books, a shop that specializes in selling books that are banned on the mainland.
Over the weekend, Lee’s colleague Gui Minhai turned up on state media TV in a tearful confession where he claimed that he had returned to the mainland to stand trial for killing a college student while drunk driving more than a decade ago. Gui had disappeared from his Thailand apartment last October.
Lee himself went missing on December 30th with his wife submitting a missing person report on January 1st. Under a reciprocal mechanism, China is obligated to notify Hong Kong authorities within two weeks if detaining a HK resident.
It has long been suspected that Lee was in the mainland. On the night of his disappearance, he made a suspicious call to his wife speaking in Mandarin, assuring her that everything was fine.
He has also penned a series of letters to his wife, telling her that he is assisting mainland police in an investigation, expressing his confusion about why his disappearance has become such a high profile issue and urging people not to join in demonstrations or stir up trouble over the issue.
He claims to have traveled to China voluntarily; though, he neglects to explain why his travel documents remain in Hong Kong or how he managed to get into the mainland.