In 1941 Hitler instituted a program referred to as Nacht und Nebel — “Night and Fog.” Put simply, it called for dissidents and enemies of the state to be disappeared without a trace, with no notice to their families. They were simply captured and killed. This policy was implemented to instill fear in potential “enemies” and partisans in conquered territory.
China is not Nazi Germany, of course, but the recent articles about Hong Kong booksellers who have disappeared brings the notion of Night and Fog to mind. No one knows where these booksellers have gone, and that’s probably the point: their vanishing is meant to instill fear in others like them, who have sold books critical of the CCP. Bookseller Lee Bo is the latest of five disappearances.
Albert Ho, a pro-democracy lawmaker, told CNN that he believed that Lee Bo, 65, a major shareholder in Causeway Bay Books, had been taken across the border to China against his will.
“It’s a forced disappearance. All those who have disappeared are related to the Causeway Bay bookshop and this bookshop was famous, not only for the sale, but also for the publication and circulation of a series of sensitive books,” said Ho.
Ho said that the publishing house had been planning on publishing a book about the “love affairs” of China’s President Xi Jinping during his time working “in the provinces.”
Lee was reported missing to police Friday. Swedish national Gui Minhai, the owner of the publishing house Mighty Current that owns the bookstore, disappeared while on holiday in Thailand, the South China Morning Post reported.
Maybe the five victims will reappear and get back to their work. But for now, this is a truly alarming story. As Jack Ma takes over the South China Morning Post and as political “enemies” disappear in Hong Kong, one must wonder if One Country, Two Systems is working. I see it as being slowly chipped away, and I’m afraid similar clampdowns on those who have the temerity to stand up to the mainland government will only increase, all a part of Xi Jinping’s ruthless campaign to control what people say and think about the CCP. I hope I’m wrong.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.