Lam Wing-kee, the banned book store founder who resurfaced in Hong Kong on Tuesday, says he will not leave Hong Kong. Lam went missing in October last year and spent eight months in detention on the mainland for allegedly sending “banned” books into China. He says he was accosted in Shenzhen, detained and ill-treated by a “special unit” separate to mainland police.

“I hope Hong Kong people can say no to the authoritarian regime,” he said. “If I can, why can’t you?”

Lam Wing-kee.
Lawmaker Albert Ho and Lam Wing-kee at a press conference on Thursday. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

“I was born and raised in Hong Kong – I don’t have to leave,” he told reporters at the legislature on Thursday. “What do I have to be regretful about? It is legal to mail the books in Hong Kong.”

“If you think I broke laws, you can sue me, but not detain me,” he said. “I cannot accept that – this is a place of rule of law.”

Lam was due to return to the mainland with a hard drive containing the details of some 600 customers of Causeway Bay Books, but he turned back, choosing to hold a press conference at the Legislative Council on Thursday night instead.

He said he did not consider seeking any protection from the police.

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

“You can see from [the 2014 protests in] Admiralty, using tear gas canisters, the students were without any weapons,” he said. “I can see [the police] were not on the people’s side.”

Police warning protesters during Occupy
Police warning protesters during Occupy. Photo: HKFP.

Asked if he has anything to say to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – who claimed to have followed up on the matter – Lam said: “I have nothing to say to him.”

“He couldn’t do anything – what can I say?” he said.

He added that the Hong Kong government failed to protect him and the other booksellers.

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

Hong Kong bookstore.
A Hong Kong bookstore. Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

Lam also said he may continue to work in the book business.

In response to Lam’s statements, a spokesperson for the government said that it has been concerned about the missing bookseller incident. They said the police have been investigating and requesting information and assistance from mainland authorities through current mechanisms.

The spokesperson said the police was proactively contacting Lam to follow up on the matter.

The spokesperson stated it was unacceptable for law enforcement agencies from outside Hong Kong to enforce law in the city. The government attaches importance to the safety of Hong Kong people and will protect the rights and freedoms of citizens according to the law, the spokesperson said.

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.