Executive Councillor Ronny Tong says there are confusing details surrounding the alleged abduction and assault of pro-democracy activist Howard Lam, but he said he thought the Democratic Party co-founder was not a liar.

Last Friday, Lam told reporters he was snatched by mainland security agents in Mong Kok over a gift he wished to send to Liu Xia, widow of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. He claimed 21 staples were inserted into his legs by the alleged agents during the interrogation.

“This incident has some elements that make people feel scared,” said Tong on a RTHK programme on Monday.

Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

He said that, if the accusations were true, the Hong Kong and the Beijing government should thoroughly investigate the potentially illegal cross-border political action.

“But I do feel normal people would not do [as he did after the incident], according to the timeline reported in the media,” Tong added.

Lam said he was dumped on a Sai Kung beach at 1am on Friday. He reportedly found a taxi to return home to Ma On Shan. After that, he ate at a restaurant, took a shower, and washed his clothes, before calling his Democratic Party colleagues in the morning.

Howard Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot,

Lam hosted a press conference at 11am on Friday upon the advice of the party’s veteran former lawmakers, without removing the staples. He only went to a hospital and reported the incident to police after the conference. Lam had said he trusted his party colleagues more than the police.

But Tong said normal people would have reported it to the police first, to increase the chance of finding the culprits.

Messi autograph

Lam said the incident was related to a signed photo of footballer Lionel Messi, whom Liu Xiaobo was a fan of, as the alleged agents warned him not to send it to his widow Liu Xia.

“I am very confused… What political meaning or political power does [the photo] even have? Secondly, I thought no one knew where Liu Xia is,” he said.

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“Thirdly, even if he wanted to give the photo to Liu Xia through the hands of different people, he must enter the mainland. Isn’t it easier for mainland agents to stop him there? Why do it in Hong Kong?” he added.

Tong mentioned that he had received a viral video in which a foreign youngster asked a friend to insert over a hundred staples into his body for fun. Tong said the person was smiling as felt the pain.

“Maybe some mainland people want to copy that after watching the video. But why? I am really baffled. So I hope police can find out the truth soon,” he said.

“But, of course, I would not say this incident was for fun. Howard Lam does not seem to be someone who lies. I have known him for many years, I can’t say I know him very well, but he often attended our lunchbox meetings,” he said.

The weekly internal meetings were held among pro-democracy camp figures – Tong attended when he was a pro-democracy legislator.

On Saturday, free expression NGO PEN America said in a statement that the incident “is an egregious violation of Hong Kong’s territorial integrity and a dramatic escalation in efforts to isolate Liu Xia and vilify and intimidate her supporters. The brazen tactics of torture and brutalization used in this attack are the hallmark of the world’s most lawless regimes.”

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.