A Hong Kong bookseller who had gone missing in recent months said that he was abducted by the Communist Party of China, and was detained for almost eight months, reports Quartz.
Lam Wing-kee was one of five booksellers associated with Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong who suddenly disappeared in October 2015. In a press conference, Lam said that he was taken by the Chinese police, forced to make a false public confession, was not given any legal representation and was only allowed to leave mainland China upon agreeing to give the authorities the names of customers who frequented the bookstore where he worked, along with information on authors.
Lam was returned to Hong Kong on Tuesday, and is the first of the missing booksellers to publicly relay the details of his kidnapping, accusing the Chinese government of violating Chinese law and the “Basic Law” that governs Hong Kong. The full transcript of his opening statement can be found here.
Hong Kong activists have expressed their support of Lam. Joshua Wong of the Umbrella Movement and leader of civic organization Demosisto, led a rally at the Western Police Station. Wong wrote in a Facebook post, “We thank Mr. Lam Wing-kee for daring to resist the power and confessing, and revealing to Hong Kongers that the [one country, two systems] has been heavily breached, to the extent that even one’s personal safety is endangered. This is not a problem just for the booksellers, but a problem for all Hong Kongers.” Pop singer Denise Ho also posted a message of solidarity on her Facebook page.
Corporations doing business in Hong Kong are said to be “looking at this very closely and are hugely concerned,” according to an unnamed Hong Kong-based executive working on Wall Street. “The rule of law is clearly one of the key elements that attracts businesses to HK.” He added that business is a “long-term game,” and that “the world is watching.”
Even conservative Hong Kong politicians are surprised and concerned about Lam’s revelation. Michael Tien, deputy chairman of the pro-Beijing New Power Party, said in a statement,
Today I heard Lam Wing-kee speak. Basically, [I feel] shocked and unsafe… As a representative of the people, I will write a letter to China’s National People’s Congress, and demand clarity regarding some of Lam’s comments on behalf of Hong Kongers.
Ann Chiang, a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council representing the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), tried to assuage people’s fears in a statement saying that there is no need for Hong Kongers to be worried. “Hong Kong has the freedom of press, and to sell books in Hong Kong would not violate mainland laws—the problem lies in whether those books are sold in mainland. Just like how Hong Kong people do not want mainlanders to come and enforce their laws, Hong Kong people should not intervene in mainland affairs either,” she said.
A researcher at Human Right Watch in Hong Kong, Maya Wong says Lam’s announcement is sure to put pressure on chief executive Leung Chun-ying and other officials, “CY Leung has stood up for Hong Kong autonomy before. The question is, as the head of Hong Kong, will he [continue to] defend Hong Kong’s autonomy…Eyes are on the Hong Kong government, as well as pro-Beijing politicians, to show that they defend ‘one country, two systems’ rather than just acting as the Chinese government’s spokesperson in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s legislative elections are set for September this year, and this incident might spark anti-Beijing sentiments among the public and politicians alike.
The Chinese state media placed an op-ed article in the state-backed Global Times, saying Lam was not mistreated. “Lam’s press conference at the very least confirms that he did not receive any mistreatment or torture. This is quite different [from notions that] Lin had been forcefully captured and taken away that some people have pulled out of their imaginations,” the piece, which has since been deleted, stated.
The Swedish Embassy has been trying to contact Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen and publisher of the bookstore where the missing men worked. A spokesperson said, “We continue to view the situation very seriously. We take a very serious view of the matter and it has been raised with representatives of China on several occasions.”