The returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee will not be attending the annual July 1 pro-democracy march on Friday, after he said he felt there was a “serious threat” to his safety over the past few days.

Lam was originally going to lead the rally alongside two other Hongkongers who were arrested and jailed on the mainland for political reasons. Veteran commentator Ching Cheong and activist Lau Shan-ching will still take part.

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Lam Wing-Kee. Photo: FactWire.

The Civil Human Rights Front issued a statement at noon on Friday stating that it received a notice from Lam saying he was forced to cancel the appointment based on “concerns of personal safety.”

“The Civil Human Rights Front is concerned about the situation of Mr Lam Wing-kee, we urge all parties to stop the suppression against Mr Lam,” the statement read.

The Front urged Hong Kong people to continue participating in the march on Friday in support of Lam, “to defend Hong Kong people’s freedom of speech and freedom from fear.”

“The more people walking out and speaking up, the higher the possibility that Mr Lam’s safety can be protected,” it added.

July 1st Protest democracy communist party robot
File photo: HKFP, Tom Grundy.

Lam went missing from Shenzhen last October. He returned to Hong Kong in mid-June and hosted a surprise press conference exposing the details of his detention, that he was blindfolded and handcuffed when he was taken from Shenzhen to Ningbo in five months of solitary confinement, until he was sent to Shaoguan to work in a library without freedom of movement.

He said that during the eight months on the mainland, he was under the control of a Chinese special unit, and he was only allowed to return to Hong Kong in order to retrieve a hard drive containing sensitive customer information of his bookstore, accompanied by two officers from the unit.

He also claimed that he was followed after he returned to Hong Kong.

Lam was one of the five booksellers of the Causeway Bay Books to disappear last year. When British national Lee Bo disappeared from the city, it sparked concerns over cross-border kidnapping and led to protests. The booksellers then reappeared on the mainland on television “confessing” to illegally sending books banned in China across the border.

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.