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Missing booksellers raise questions about territory's autonomy

Five men related to Hong Kong's Causeway Bay Books, pictured here with the blue signage, have gone missing since October 2015.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- The mysterious disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers in recent months has stoked fears that the former British colony's vaunted media freedoms may be under assault, and has raised questions about whether the self-governing territory still enjoys "a high degree of autonomy" from an increasingly assertive China.

     The concerns reflect widespread suspicion, so far not officially confirmed, that the five men may have been abducted by Chinese security agents, or perhaps by "triad" gangsters hired by security forces, to face criminal charges on the mainland. If so, say analysts, their successive individual disappearances since October would confirm a growing -- and chilling -- new pattern of China using extraordinary means, including reaching beyond its borders, to silence dissenters.

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