Previously missing bookseller Lam Wing-kee has clarified his stance on Hong Kong independence, saying that it should be up for debate. His comments follow an interview he gave with Channel NewsAsia on Sunday where he said Hong Kong independence may be “possible”.

His words sparked discussion among localist groups as to whether Lam was truly a supporter of Hong Kong independence, in light of him asking for help from Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan – who is not a supporter of the independence movement.

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“I’m not saying… [I] support independence. I just think that it can be up for discussion,” said Lam during a D100 Radio interview on Monday night. “At least give it a space [for discussion],” he added.

“Hong Kong is a free society, everyone has different views, and are promoting different views. The best way to go about it is to host a referendum like a free society,” Lam added.

lam wing kee bookseller
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: HKFP.

When asked how he would envision an independent Hong Kong, Lam provided a Chinese proverb from ancient philosopher Lao Tzu to illustrate his view.

“To not interact with each other until death, but to hear the sounds of chickens and dogs in your surroundings,” Lam explained. “If it is a place with freedom, someone has the right to not interact with people from another place – they can. This is their freedom.”

“If you, as a powerful regime, force people to interact with you, is this considered tyrannical?” he added. “You took away people’s freedom, and this applies to Hong Kong too. If Hong Kong has freedom to decide its own future, you can give Hong Kong an election [referendum].”

Free discussion

Lam said that it is not about whether people support independence or not.

hong kong china independence protest
File Photo: HKFP.

“You have to first give people a free space, [China] does not have the right to decide, [China] hasn’t given anything to the people, right?” he said.

Lam said that Hong Kong can only hope that China will truly implement the One Country, Two Systems principle, otherwise Hong Kong people will have to fight for it.

Lam held a surprise press conference last Thursday claiming that he was kidnapped from Shenzhen in October last year. He said that he was detained and ill-treated for eight months by a “special unit” separate from official mainland police. Since then, his colleagues at the Causeway Bay Bookstore and his girlfriend in the mainland have separately accused him of lying and using their relationship to run his banned books business.

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.