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Hong Kong leader writes to Beijing on missing bookseller

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Lam Wing-kee is one of five booksellers who went missing last year after working for a publisher known for salacious titles about leading Chinese politicians.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's leader said on Tuesday he had sent a letter to Beijing outlining the city's concerns over the case of a bookseller who told how he was blindfolded, interrogated and detained in China, but pro-democracy activists say it is not enough to allay residents' fears.

Lam Wing-kee is one of five booksellers who went missing last year after working for a publisher known for salacious titles about leading Chinese politicians.

The case has heightened fears that Beijing is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

Last Thursday, Lam detailed how he was detained for months after being picked up in the southern mainland city of Shenzhen in October on a visit to see his girlfriend.

Lam, who was placed on suicide watch during his detention, broke bail and is refusing to go back over the border, where he is under investigation for bringing banned books into the mainland.

His explosive revelations last week about how he had been detained in China further fanned many residents' concerns and forced the government to respond.

The city's leader Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday morning he had relayed concerns on the matter to Beijing authorities.

Mr Leung said the letter asked Beijing to clarify how relevant mainland departments handle cases where Hong Kong people have broken mainland laws and whether or not mainland personnel had carried out cross-border law enforcement in the semi-autonomous city.

It also asked "whether or not the handling of the issue affected the one country, two systems and the basic law which guarantees the freedoms and rights of Hong Kong people".

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement and enjoys much greater liberties than mainland China.

But pro-democracy lawmakers said the government had not been proactive enough following Lam's revelations, with Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo calling Mr Leung's response "pathetic".

"Leung is quite terrified obviously, to take up the issue clearly and loudly with the Beijing authorities, he obviously wants to make sure that he doesn't embarrass his master in any way," Ms Mo told AFP.

"This is probably the most striking, the most unsettling case that actually hampers the one country, two systems promise," she said.

Lam, 61, likened his ordeal to Cultural Revolution repression during an interview with AFP Sunday, referring to the decade of torture, executions and public vilifications carried out under communist leader Mao Zedong across mainland China from 1966.

Lam also said he was staying with a relative and says he has not asked city authorities for protection. "There is no use," he said. "They cannot protect me forever." Since Lam went public, three of the other booksellers have cast doubt on his story.

One of them, Lee Bo, the only one of the group to have disappeared on Hong Kong soil, refuted Lam's claim that he had told him he was taken to the mainland against his wishes.

AFP