Bookseller Lam Wing-kee has said he was held by a kind of “central special unit” in China, rather than police or national security, after he went missing from Hong Kong last October. He said a TV “confession” he gave was scripted and orchestrated.

Lam returned to Hong Kong on Tuesday and said that mainland police offered to release him if he returned to China on Thursday with a hard drive containing a list of customers from the Causeway Bay bookstore he founded. The shop was known for political gossipy titles banned on the mainland – most customers are mainland Chinese.

Lam Wing-kee.
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Describing the details of his eight month detention to reporters at the legislature on Thursday night, he said that he was intercepted at the mainland border crossing on October 24 last year. He was handcuffed, his eyes were covered, he was made to wear a hat and was taken from Shenzhen to Ningbo by train the next day.

See also: Banned book seller says Chinese authorities demanded hard drive containing details of some 600 customers

He said he was held in a 200 to 300 square feet room in a large compound for five months until March. Lam was not allowed a lawyer or communication with his family, and says that six groups of people took turns monitoring him. He could not walk a step out of the room.

‘This is about human rights’

Accompanied by lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lam told reporters that he could not understand what law he may have violated, as it was legal in Hong Kong to send books to the mainland.

“If I broke Chinese laws they can sue me, why did the Chinese government grabbed me silently when I crossed the border?” he said.

Lam Wing-kee.
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

“This is not just my personal matter or Causeway Bay Books, this is about the human rights of Hong Kong people,” he said, saying that it was blatant violation of the One Country, Two Systems principle.

He said that a TV “confession” he gave on Phoenix TV in February was fake.

See also: Bookseller’s testimony has ‘blown apart’ Beijing’s ‘lies’ on the missing publishers, says Amnesty

He said there were a director and a script for him to practice, but he did not have the courage to refuse to do so, although he did not think he committed any crime.

After March, he was sent to Shaoguan to work at a library, with less restrictions. He said he was set to receive HK$100,000 from the Mighty Current publisher, which bought out the bookstore.

Lam Wing-kee.
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Five booksellers from the Causeway Bay store went missing from Thailand, China and Hong Kong last year. The whereabouts of Swedish national Gui Minhai are still unknown. The UK and the US governments, and the European Union, have expressed concern over the issue.

Lam founded and operated the banned book store before it was purchased by Mighty Current in 2014. He last used his computer at the shop on October 23 and was reported missing by his wife on November 5. He called his wife the next day to say he was safe, following media reports of his disappearance. He was confirmed to be in China on February 4 this year.

Lam stood accused of being involved in illegal activities on the mainland. Chinese authorities said that criminal compulsory measures were imposed upon him and he was under investigation.

SMALL hong kong free press hkfp logo

Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.