Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo says he will abandon UK residency

Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo says he will abandon UK residency

One of the five booksellers who went missing from Hong Kong has said he will give up his right to live in the UK.

In a televised interview, his first public appearance since going missing, Lee Bo denied he had been abducted by Chinese officials.

Mr Lee is one of five men linked to a Hong Kong publishers who disappeared late last year – the publishing house sold books critical of China's leaders.

His supporters believe the TV interview was done under duress.

The BBC's Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says political activists who have been advocating for Mr Lee's return to Hong Kong believe his apparent confession is laughable.

Public confessions have long been a part of China's criminal law, but experts say many confessions are forced.

The other booksellers also appeared on Chinese television on Sunday, saying they were detained for "illegal book trading".

The case has sparked accusations of China violating Hong Kong judicial independence

'Mistaken judgment'

In his interview with mainland news outlets (in Chinese), Mr Lee, also known as Paul Lee, confirmed that he has a British passport, and that he had applied for the right of abode in the UK in the early 1990s.

But he said he had never lived in the UK "nor enjoyed the rights and privileges of a British citizen" since then.

"Because some people have used the question of my right to abode in the UK to engage in speculation, it has allowed things to become more complicated, and I have decided to renounce my right to abode," he said, adding that he had already informed the UK.

Analysis: Juliana Liu, BBC News, Hong Kong

Lee Bo is a British citizen who enjoys unrestricted rights to live in the UK.

It is this right, the so-called right of abode, that he intends to renounce. It also implies he wants to renounce all rights as a British subject, including consular access to British officials in China.

Mr Lee had previously made similar entreaties in letters to colleagues and in communications with Hong Kong officials. But his supporters at home believe the requests are not genuine.

They believe he is under pressure from the Chinese authorities, who wish to reduce the international attention on this case.

Mr Lee also said he went to the mainland by choice to "co-operate in investigations" into his publishing company, Mighty Current, and its employees, and chose to "sneak into the mainland" with the help of friends.

"I was worried that upon reaching the mainland and taking part in the lawful investigation, and testifying against others, it would lead to them and their families getting angry with me and this would not be good for me and my family, so to guarantee our safety, I chose to be smuggled in," he said.

The UK has previously expressed concern about the disappearances, particularly that of Mr Lee.

It said last month he was probably "involuntarily removed" to China in what would have been a "serious breach" of the Hong Kong handover treaty.

Mr Lee said he hoped the UK response was based on a "mistaken judgment and mistaken reading of incorrect information".

In response to his TV interview, the UK government said it was ready to provide consular assistance, but had not so far been allowed access to Mr Lee, despite formal requests to the Chinese government.

US-based writer: "I'm responsible for the book"

Four of the men from Mighty Current publishing house, Gui Minhai, Lui Bo, Lam Wingkei and Cheung Jiping, gave details of their alleged offences during their appearance on Phoenix TV (in Chinese) on Sunday.

The men said they had sold 4,000 "unauthorised" books to 380 customers in mainland China, Phoenix TV reported.

Some people in Hong Kong believe they were detained by China because of a book about President Xi Jinping.

The case has sparked international concern that China could be attempting to rein in freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

However, China's foreign ministry has said its officials would not behave illegally, and urged other countries not to meddle in its affairs.