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The Chinese authorities are showing total contempt for due process and the rule of law in the case of five detained Hong Kong booksellers, Amnesty International said, after police in Guangdong in southern China confirmed that three of the men missing since last October are in their custody and being investigated.

Guangdong police confirmed late on Thursday that Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee are suspected of “illegal activity.” The Hong Kong publishing company that the men work for, Mighty Current Media, is known for its books on Chinese leaders and political scandals, which are banned in China but are popular with mainland Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong.  

“The latest official disclosures about the last three missing book publishers are anything but satisfactory. The Chinese authorities need to end their smoke and mirrors strategy and come clean with a full and proper explanation,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Nearly four months after the men first vanished, we still don’t know where they are detained, on what charges they are being investigated, and whether they are allowed to see their lawyers or families.”

On Thursday, Guangdong police also told their counterparts in Hong Kong that Lee Bo, another of the booksellers, had allegedly rejected their request to meet him. Lee Bo went missing in Hong Kong on December 30, and later contacted his wife to say he was assisting mainland Chinese police with an investigation. Activists in Hong Kong have voiced concerns over whether the statements were given voluntarily.

“These detentions make a mockery of the Chinese government’s claims to be ‘ruling the country according to the law.’ The Chinese authorities seem to think that if they can get detained people under their control to write implausible letters or call family members saying that they are pro-actively ‘cooperating with investigations’ they can do away with due process and human rights,” said Nee.

Gui Minahi, the fifth person linked to Mighty Current Media, went missing in Thailand on October 17. On January 17, he appeared on Chinese state television CCTV making a “confession,” in which he said he had voluntarily surrendered to the Chinese authorities over his supposed involvement in a hit-and-run accident in 2003.