The Hong Kong police have offered to protect recently returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee. Lam says he feels “relieved” by the new move, according to a lawmaker assisting him.

In an interview with Ming Pao published on Thursday, Lam said he was a victim of triad-like stalking, having been followed by strangers six times since returning to the city in mid-June. The bookseller was detained on the mainland for eight months before his return, and he has refused to go back to China since then.

Lam Wing-kee
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: HKFP.

Speaking to reporters, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the police had refused to give Lam the protection he asked for since they assessed the situation and claimed he was safe. But a senior officer finally notified the pair during a meeting on Thursday that protection would be provided.

The move came after a press conference by top officials on Thursday morning, in which acting police commissioner Tony Wong Chi-hung promised protection for Lam after a trip to Beijing. During the meeting with the visiting officials, China’s Public Security Bureau urged Lam to return to the mainland of his own accord for investigation, saying Lam may be subjected to unspecified criminal compulsory measures.

Protection programme

To said he has explained the general principles of the protection programme to Lam, such as where he would be living, whether police officers will stay with him, and how officers will protect him when he is away from his residence.

Hong Kong police. File photo: HKFP.

“Mr Lam understood [the measures], he believed he can accept them on principle,” he said. “So he reached a verbal preliminary agreement with the senior officer.”

To said details of the protection programme have yet to be confirmed, “but it should be done soon.”

“I think Mr Lam was relieved and gratified after hearing the information,” he said. “He made some jokes when he was having a meal with me.”

Refuge in Taiwan

To also quoted Lam as saying that he was reconsidering whether to move to Taiwan, having received protection.

“I asked him in the afternoon, and he said let’s think about it later,” To said.

Lam Wing-kee
James To and Lam Wing-kee. File photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Regarding the details of them being followed, To said that he and Lam had been followed by three separate vehicles.

In the interview with Ming Pao, Lam said the police told him a retired firefighter followed them on a motorcycle “out of curiosity.” To said the police were concerned and clarified that it was an off-duty firefighter rather than a retired one, but they maintained he followed them out of curiosity.

Another suspicious vehicle was rented by a media organisation, according to police. To said that the police have yet to confirm the identity of the third vehicle.

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To also said that Lam had provided up to ten hours-worth of statements to police “detailed to the second.”

“It was adequate for the police to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said.

Lam – founder of Causeway Bay Books – says he was kidnapped in Shenzhen and detained in Ningbo for eight months. He stands accused by mainland authorities of illegally sending “banned” books into China. He says the condition for his return to Hong Kong was to hand over sensitive customer information from his shop in Causeway Bay. Lam has been staying in a “safe place” in Hong Kong with the assistance of lawmakers.

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.