China Disappears Information (and People)
The connection between Beijing’s repression and last week’s market shocksBy L. Gordon Crovitz, WSJ
Jan. 10, 2016 4:37 p.m. ET
Analysts trying to understand the volatile Chinese stock market should pay a visit to a gritty building on Lockhart Road in Hong Kong. They’ll find a reminder of the risks of operating in an authoritarian country where providing information is a crime.
On the second floor is Causeway Bay Books, long a popular destination for mainland visitors looking for information banned at home. It’s closed, at least temporarily, after five owners and employees were “disappeared”—apparently snatched and detained by mainland security forces—for selling books that offend Beijing.
The case shows Beijing is willing to create international incidents to control information. Just before the store closed, its two best sellers were “2016: Collapse of the Communist Party of China” and “Shen Bing’s Account: My Story With Zhou Yongkang,” in which the author, a state-TV anchorwoman, describes her affair with Mr. Zhou, a former Politburo member now imprisoned for corruption. There’s speculation that the disappearances are meant to stop a planned book about the love life of President Xi Jinping.
Four bookstore employees disappeared in October, three while visiting the mainland and one in Thailand. Last month co-owner Lee Bo vanished. “I am not worried,” he had told the South China Morning Post. “I have avoided going to the mainland for years.” It turned out he wasn’t safe in Hong Kong. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond last week complained in Beijing about the snatching of Mr. Lee, a British citizen, calling it an “egregious breach” of China’s commitment to respect Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom of speech.