HONG KONG (AP) — Three of five missing Hong Kong booksellers will be freed on bail soon while mainland Chinese authorities continue their investigation, police say, in the latest wrinkle to a case that's sparked concern in the specially run Chinese region.
Hong Kong police said in a brief notice late Wednesday that said they were informed by the public security department in neighboring Guangdong province that Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee will be "released on bail pending investigation in the coming few days."
The disappearances of the three, along with two other men, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and British citizen Lee Bo, have drawn international attention over fears Beijing is eroding the semiautonomous Chinese city's rule of law and civil liberties, such as freedom of the press.
The publishing company that the five are associated with specialized in books on sensitive Chinese political topics that proved popular with visitors from the mainland, where they were prohibited from sale.
The police statement did not say whether they would be allowed to return to Hong Kong or would have to remain in mainland China.
Lui, Cheung and Lam vanished in October and then reappeared Sunday on Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing news channel Phoenix TV, where they confessed to helping Gui mail thousands of books illegally to mainland Chinese buyers.
Hong Kong police had said previously that the three were being investigated in a case involving a "person surnamed Gui," based on information from Guangdong public security officials.
Lee appeared in a separate interview with the channel on Monday in which he claimed he wasn't abducted, as many suspected, but had sneaked illegally into the mainland to help authorities with an investigation.
However, rights activists have questioned whether Lee had been forced to give the interview.