Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo has denied claims made by his colleague Lam Wing-kee, who held a press conference on Thursday describing his detention in China.

Both Lee and Lam were associated with Causeway Bay Books, known for selling political gossip titles banned in China. They both went missing last year, before showing up on the mainland and appearing in televised confessions. Both men returned to Hong Kong this year.

Lam claimed that he was detained by a central special case unit, investigating the bookstore’s operation of sending “banned” books to the mainland. The condition for his return to Hong Kong was that he must provide a hard drive containing information of some 600 customers to the unit as evidence. Lam said that Lee Bo had already provided information on the bookstore’s customers to the unit. Lam also claimed that Lee had told him in private that he was kidnapped.

Lee Bo
Lee Bo. Photo: Phoenix TV screenshot.

In a rare response on Friday morning, Lee Bo issued a public post on Facebook denying Lam’s claims. Lee has not posted anything publicly in two years.

“I did not want to say anything more, but I have to clarify some words that Lam Wing-kee said,” Lee said.

“I have never used computers at Causeway Bay Books, and I have never printed out any customer list, so it was impossible for me to give the so-called list to the Chinese police,” he said.

“When I was speaking to Lam Wing-kee, I have not talked about how I went back to the mainland, and I have not said ‘involuntarily brought to the mainland’ or anything similar,” he added.

“During the time when I was cooperating in an investigation with Ningbo police, I have never heard of anything called ‘central special case unit’,” he concluded.

Lee has claimed he voluntarily went to the mainland using his own methods, to assist in an investigation.

Screenshots of the account had appeared on the pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily after Lee’s first return to Hong Kong in March.

paul lee bo
Photo: Facebook.

In another post, he said there were many journalists outside his home, but he has said everything he wanted to say.

“Hope you all can give me and my family some peace and privacy. Thank you,” he said.

Meanwhile, Acting Chief Executive John Tsang Chun-wah broke his silence on the matter on Friday, although his words were in line with an earlier government statement.

“It is illegal for law enforcement agencies from outside Hong Kong to carry out enforcement actions in Hong Kong, and that is unacceptable,” he said. “We have always attached great importance to the personal safety of Hong Kong residents. We will continue to protect Hong Kong residents’ rights and their freedom, in accordance with the law.”

Booksellers Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, who also went missing in Shenzhen and Dongguan respectively, have returned to Hong Kong but went back to mainland soon after. Gui Minhai, another bookseller at Causeway Bay Books, has yet to be released from the detention on the mainland.

The pan-democratic lawmakers and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China are to organise a march and a petition to support Lam Wing-kee and urge for the release of the other booksellers.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.