19-year-old Hong Kong activist speaks out over missing booksellers

Titled ‘An Urgent Cry from Hong Kong’, Agnes Chow’s criticism of China has received nearly a million views in just three days

Charlie Atkin
Tuesday 05 January 2016 15:37
Activist's plea in wake of Hong Kong booksellers' alleged abductions

A young activist’s video criticising China has received nearly a million views, after the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers in the last few months.

Agnes Chow, 19, who was heavily involved in last year’s ‘Umbrella Movement’, posted the video titled ‘An Urgent Cry from Hong Kong’ to denounce what she calls the ‘political suppression’ of China.

The second-year student at Hong Kong’s Baptist University begins the video by introducing herself and saying:

“I have an important message that I hope to spread to the world which is related to a bookseller who suddenly disappeared and had been abducted to Mainland.”

The bookseller she refers to was Lee Bo, “who sold books criticizing the Communist Party of China”.

An employee arranges books about China politics in a books store in Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong

The 65-year-old’s store had been popular with visitors from mainland China, where political books could be bought that were banned elsewhere.

Bo was the fifth Hong Kong bookseller to have disappeared since October 15th 2015, four of them within China’s Guangdong province, another while on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand.

Chow, a member of student activist organisation Scholarism, believes that the booksellers were ‘abducted to Mainland’ China, saying in her video:

“With no departure record of Lee, and his Home Return Permit Card is left at his home in Hong Kong, it can be speculated that the police from the mainland organized cross-border arrest to threaten people in Hong Kong. If the above speculation is true, it indicates the erosion of "one country, two system" in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

A book with Chinese President Xi Jinping is displayed at the warehouse of Hong Kong-based publisher Mighty Current in Hong Kong

An arrest of this kind would conflict with this system and the consequent freedoms Hong Kong residents enjoy as part of their relationship with Beijing, she claims.

As Chow explains, “Unlike the mainland China, Hong Kong did not adopt authoritarian governance. Citizens who sell politically sensitive books were not supposed to be suppressed by any threats of ‘disappearance’ and imprisonment with the existence of freedom of press and speech.

“We feel that Hong Kong is not Hong Kong anymore, it is named as Hong Kong only.”

Tens of thousands of protesters occupied the streets of Hong Kong during China’s National Day

Beijing is yet to comment on the disappearances, yet an editorial in the Communist Party-run newspaper, Global Times, claimed the booksellers “relied on causing trouble in mainland China to survive” and that the books contained “vicious fabrication”.

The South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong’s chief executive, CY Leung, said such abductions, if true, would be “unacceptable and unconstitutional”.

Today the Foreign and Commonwealth also confirmed that one of the missing booksellers is British, releasing this statement:

"We are deeply concerned by reports about the disappearance and detention of individuals associated with the Causeway Bay Books bookstore in Hong Kong," the statement said, referring to the firm's affiliated shop.

"We can confirm that one of the individuals is a British citizen and we have urgently requested the Hong Kong and mainland authorities' assistance in ascertaining this individual's welfare and whereabouts."

Chow ends her video by suggesting the poignancy of a quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller.

“First they came for the activists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not an activist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a journalist. Then they came for the bookseller, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a bookseller. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The full video is available to view here.

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