The recently returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee said that he did not want to rebut his mainland girlfriend’s claims that he used her to send “banned” books to customers on the mainland, as it may hurt her even more, suggesting that she was put under pressure to speak.

The girlfriend surnamed Wu appeared in an “exclusive” interview with Sing Tao Daily published on Sunday. Wu was also under detention, like Lam, for an investigation by a Chinese special unit relating to book posting business. She was released on bail and said in the interview that Lam was “not a man” for using her.

“Of course I am a man,” Lam told Apple Daily in an interview. “It’s normal for her to say that, I feel sad that I cannot help her, I know she will say that.”

Photo: Sing Tao Daily screenshot

Lam returned to Hong Kong last week after disappearing in Shenzhen last October. He said in a surprise press conference that he was kidnapped and detained in Ningbo in light of the book posting operations of Causeway Bay Books, and forced to sign papers to give up his right to a lawyer and to contact his family. The confession he made on Phoenix TV was scripted, he said.

Before their capture, Lam would send books to Wu and ask her to send the books from Dongguan to mainland customers to avoid checks.

But Wu claimed they had the right to hire lawyers and contact families, that they signed the papers so that their families would not know their relationship, as Lam had yet to divorce from his wife. Lam said he felt guilty about his girlfriend.

“It does not matter what I say, she cannot hear it, so I better save my words,” he said. “My girlfriend was the biggest sacrifice, I will never be able to see her again… This relationship is dead.”

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

Smear campaign

Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, two other booksellers of Causeway Bay Books, also went missing in China and returned to Hong Kong, before going back to the mainland again soon after. Sing Tao has also published another “exclusive” interview with them on Saturday, claiming that Lam was lying and being manipulated.

Lam also said he will not reply to those claims for their own good.

“If I confront them every time, it would be hurting them, because they were speaking against their conscience, so I don’t want to confront them,” he said. “It’s not because I am not speaking the truth, but because it will hurt them, making them have a worse treatment [by the special unit], why bother?”

Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por. Photo: Phoenix TV screenshot.

Lam added that Lee Bo, another bookseller who he claimed was kidnapped from Hong Kong, was supposed to go to the mainland on June 27.

“I bet he will not go, because the Communist Party is afraid of people knowing its agenda, if he does not go on [June] 27 then it will prove what [I] said was true,” he said.

Veteran commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu told Apple Daily that it was common for the mainland authorities to launch smear campaigns for whistleblowers, as Lam’s revelations were bad for the authorities.

Photo: Sing Tao Daily screenshot.

‘Blatant lie’

Meanwhile, Sing Tao Daily also published another “exclusive” interview on Sunday night with the chief librarian of Shaoguan Library, where Lam claimed he was forced to work since March, after five months of solitary confinement.

Lam told the media he had relatively more freedom after the transfer, but remained under supervision and had to stay in certain districts.

Chen Weiqing, the librarian, told Sing Tao that Lam’s claim was a “blatant lie.” Chen said Lam was in very good shape at the library, that he gained a lot of weight and loved Shaoguan a lot.

Chen also claimed Lam wanted to buy a flat in Shaoguan for long-term residence.

The librarian went on to say he had heard rumours from someone that Lam had a new girlfriend in Shaoguan, and was often dating her and having meals with her.

Kris Cheng

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.