China has confirmed that a missing Hong Kong-based bookseller, one of five men whose disappearance fuelled fears of an erosion of the city's freedoms, is on the mainland, the city's government said.
The news will add to fears of pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and some residents who believe mainland authorities are kidnapping critics to try to silence dissent.
Lee Bo, who works for a publishing house that sells books critical of Beijing, was last seen at a book warehouse in Hong Kong on December 30.
He was the fifth employee of the Mighty Current publishing house to go missing in recent months.
Three were in China when they vanished, but the disappearance of Lee from Hong Kong and of another man from Thailand has raised fears of Chinese authorities operating internationally.
A Hong Kong government spokesman said Tuesday police had received information from Chinese authorities that Lee was in China.
The spokesman said the letter was issued by the public security department of Guangdong province which borders Hong Kong, but it did not specify where the missing man was.
Hong Kong police have written to the Guangdong security department asking to meet Lee.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has been lambasted in the city for what critics say has been a weak response to the crisis, said Tuesday the government was seeking a meeting with Lee.
"Hopefully we will know more about the case of Mr. Lee," he told reporters.
On Sunday Lee's associate Gui Minhai, who disappeared in Thailand, appeared on Chinese state television.
A weeping Gui said he had returned to China to "take legal responsibilities" for killing a college student in a car accident 11 years ago.
Rights campaigners dismissed Gui's apparent confession, calling it a "smokescreen" to play down concerns that he was being detained by mainland authorities for his work.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 after 150 years as a British colony. Under a "One country, two systems" agreement, the semi-autonomous city is guaranteed freedoms that are not available on the mainland.
However campaigns for greater democracy have been stymied and many activists fear Beijing is imposing its authoritarian stamp on the freewheeling city.