Pro-Beijing lawmakers have accused Causeway Bay bookstore founder Lam Wing-kee of holding a “political” news conference “for show”. They say his case has nothing to do with One Country, Two Systems – the agreement which guarantees the city’s autonomy from China.

Five booksellers from the Causeway Bay store went missing from Thailand, China and Hong Kong last year. One of them, 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 the bookstore’s customers. Instead, Lam gave an account of his ordeal at a press conference in the Legislative Council building Thursday evening.

wong kwok-kin lam wing-kee
Lam Wing-kee and lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin.

Lam said that he was held in a 200 to 300 square foot concrete room in Ningbo with a window looking out on a police station, and that during that [mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”18″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”How do we know if you’re telling the truth or lying?” – Wong Kwok-kin.[/mks_pullquote]period he underwent 20 to 30 interrogations without a lawyer. He also said that a TV “confession” he gave was scripted and orchestrated by Chinese authorities.

Following the press conference, pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said of Lam, “We’re only hearing one side of the story – how do we know if you’re telling the truth or lying? [You] held a press conference and yet did not present any concrete evidence.”

See also: ‘An absurd place’: Returned bookseller says he underwent 20-30 forced interrogations without lawyer

Wong also told Ming Pao that if Lam was unfairly treated in the mainland, he could speak with the police or Hong Kong deputies to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference or the National People’s Congress. He said that the act of holding a press conference along with Albert Ho had strong political overtones and questioned whether it was a pre-election move and “for show” only.

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

‘Nothing to do with One Country, Two Systems’

Pro-Beijing DAB lawmaker and LegCo Security Panel chairman Ip Kwok-him said Lam’s statements would not strike a blow to the Hong Kong government’s rule, because Lam broke Chinese laws and was arrested on the mainland, so the incident had nothing to do with One Country Two Systems, Ming Pao reported.

Ip also said that there was nothing much the Hong Kong government could follow up on, because this was a matter concerning the mainland government and just as Hongkongers do not wish Chinese authorities to enforce laws in Hong Kong, Hong Kong should also not interfere with affairs relating to the mainland.

Responding to Lam’s criticisms that the Hong Kong government failed to help him, Ip said there was little it could have done due to the nature of the mainland’s legal procedures.

‘Very uncomfortable’

Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien said that he felt “very uncomfortable” after hearing what Lam said. The New People’s Party member said that there was no evidence to show that Lam was lying, but he also did not know whether Lam had exaggerated any part of the story. However, he said that Lam’s accusations were serious and that he would write to The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and ask for an explanation.

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

Michael Tien Puk-sun. File
Michael Tien Puk-sun. File

Tien added that he would ask Chinese authorities to clarify whether it was legal to hold Lam captive in a room for five months, and whether sending books from Hong Kong to the mainland was equivalent to selling them and violating mainland laws. Tien said he would also ask more about the allegations that the televised confession was scripted.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.