Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo, who went missing in late December, appeared on television Monday, saying he had not been kidnapped by Chinese authorities as suspected. Instead, Bo — a dual British and Hong Kong citizen — confessed that he had sneaked into China illegally to avoid raising attention while he assisted police with an investigation of his colleagues.
Lee and four of his colleagues — who sold books critical of the Chinese government which were banned in the mainland — disappeared late last year, sparking fears that Beijing was clamping down on Hong Kong's freedom of speech. In a 20-minute interview with China's Phoenix Television late Monday night, Lee made his first public appearance in months to give a detailed account of his disappearance, reportedly saying that he moved to China voluntary. He also said he was giving up his British citizenship.
“Many have sensationalized my British citizenship and have complicated the situation, so I have decided to give up my British citizenship,” Lee said in the interview, according to the Guardian.
"Why have I acted so mysteriously? It's because I've had to assist with a mainland Chinese investigation and it required testifying against some people," Lee reportedly said, adding: "I used an illegal means to sneak there and I didn't use my (Chinese) home return permit."
"I am very safe and free in China. My relations with law enforcement officers are very good. They treat me very well,” Lee said, according to Reuters.
Earlier this month, Britain accused China of a serious breach of a longstanding bilateral treaty between the U.K. and China, saying that Lee was "involuntarily removed ... without any due process" under Hong Kong law.
Lee’s appearance came just a day after four of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers confessed Sunday that they had been detained for illegally trading books on the mainland.
The men worked for the publishing house Mighty Current and its retail outlet, Causeway Bay Bookshop. The publication produced titles about political intrigue and love affairs at the highest levels of Chinese politics.