A MURKY AFFAIR

A book linked to the disappearance of Hong Kong booksellers focuses on Xi Jinping’s “six women”

The love life of Xi Jinping is the focus of an unpublished manuscript believed to be behind the disappearance of five men connected to a political bookstore in Hong Kong, a Hong Kong academic and politician claim.

The book’s title was being debated by the publisher before the abductions, Willy Wo-lap Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Quartz, citing a source within Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the book store.

The two choices were: The Lovers of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping and His Six Women, Lam said, but no decision had been made yet. Lam, a veteran China watcher, is also the author of a series of books analyzing China’s top leaders. His latest publication is Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping.

The book covers Xi’s life between 1985 and 2002, when he held various official posts in the southern Fujian province, including the first 15 of his marriage to Peng Liyuan in 1987, Lam said.

On Sunday (Jan. 3) Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho told a press conference an upcoming book about a “girlfriend” of Xi’s from several years ago was behind the men’s disappearance.

It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party. This past October, those rules were changed to forbid “improper sexual relationships with others,” a tweak that state-run news agency Xinhua said makes “the regulation stricter.”

A prominent Chinese folk singer, Peng was much more famous than Xi when they got married, Lam said. Peng was still based in Beijing while Xi served in Fujian, and the couple didn’t live together for over a decade until Xi was promoted the party chief of the neighboring Zhejiang province, Lam said.

Last week’s disappearance of Lee Bo, an employee at the Causeway Bay Bookstore, has brought international attention to mysterious case of the five missing men. Hong Kong democratic politicians including Ho believe they have been abducted by mainland Chinese security officials.

Hong Kong is guaranteed freedom of speech under the Basic Law written as part of the city’s handover from Britain to China, and small local publishers have a tradition of publishing books critical of the Chinese Communist Party. The quality and accuracy of these so-called “banned books” varies, with some just gossipy fabrications, and others later proved to be true. Nonetheless, they are popular with mainland Chinese tourists.

China’s state-backed tabloid Global Times said in an editorial this week that the bookstore sells books that contain “maliciously fabricated content,” which enter the mainland, become the source of political rumors and “have caused some evil influence to some extent.” A Chinese-language version of the same editorial also accuses the bookstore of harming the “harmony and stability” of mainland society.

After his disappearance, Lee reportedly faxed a letter to his colleague to say he is safe and is voluntarily assisting in an investigation with Chinese authorities. Hong Kong officials are concerned mainland officials are trying to illegally enforce mainland laws in Hong Kong, despite a promise the city operates under “one country, two systems.”

Because Lee holds a British passport, his disappearance has raised some diplomatic tensions. The UK has asked Chinese and Hong Kong authorities about his whereabouts and urged the Hong Kong government to honor its “commitment” to press freedom. Swedish officials are investigating the disappearance of China-born Swedish national Gui Minhai, who owns the publishing company and has been missing for months.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi warned on Tuesday (Jan. 5) that other countries had “no right to interfere” with the affairs in Hong Kong, and that Lee is “first and foremost a Chinese citizen.”

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