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China confirms presence of second Hong Kong publisher

Chinese officials have confirmed missing Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo is on the mainland. Lee's disappearance coincides with the that of four other Hong Kong booksellers associated with Mighty Current publishers.

Hong Kong police said they received a notice from Guangdong province's public security department that it is "understood that Lee Bo is on the mainland." Police said they requested a meeting with Lee to "further understand the situation of the incident."

Guangdong officials also forwarded Hong Kong a letter written by Lee. Hong Kong police said the letter was similar to one written by Lee to his wife, in which he said he had "voluntarily" gone to the mainland to assist authorities with an investigation.

Lee went missing last year from his company's warehouse. He did not have his mainland travel permit with him, but days after he disappeared, he called his wife to say he was in Shenzhen, near to Hong Kong in mainland China.

Lee's disappearance caused many to suspect Beijing of sending its agents to abduct the bookseller. News of his emergence in China came shortly after another Hong Kong publisher,

Gui Minhai, appeared on Chinese state television,

saying he had come to the mainland to confess to a crime he committed over a decade ago.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Gui had killed a female colleague in 2003 and was convicted of drunk driving. The bookseller left the country soon after and was seen last October in Thailand before disappearing and reappearing in China last weekend.

China Hongkong Gui Minhai

Gui Minhai disappeared from his home in Pattaya, Thailand, last October

Statements under duress?

Similarities between Lee and Gui's confessions have led rights activists to believe that something was amiss. "We can't rule out that it was made under duress, especially since both Lee Bo and Gui Minhai used very similar language in their communications," William Nee, Amnesty International's China researcher told journalists.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang also insisted that the taped confession by Gui was not enough. "The China Central Television (CCTV) report did not seem to be able to calm the public. As the case drags on, there will be more speculation," he said.

Lee and Gui are two out of five Hong Kong publishers with connections to the Causeway Bay bookstore and Mighty Current publishers that have Mighty Current specializes in titles based on rumors about Chinese politicians and subjects considered off-limits by mainland Chinese publishing companies.

Hong Kong was reintegrated into China in 1997 after being controlled by the British for nearly 150 years. Citizens in Hong Kong are guaranteed freedoms not available to mainland citizens under the "One country, two systems agreement."

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mg/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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