Public broadcaster RTHK will air a new docudrama based on the story of bookseller Lam Wing-kee, who disappeared in 2015 and returned to Hong Kong the following year to reveal that he had been kidnapped and detained by mainland authorities.

Lam was the founder of Causeway Bay Books, which specialised in political gossipy titles banned in the mainland. Lam went missing from Shenzhen in October 2015, only to re-emerge on a Chinese television channel months later “confessing” to crimes of helping to run – with four other missing booksellers – a business to “illegally” send books to the mainland.

Lam Wing-kee drama RTHK
A still photo of the Below the Lion Rock episode on Lam Wing-kee. Photo: RTHK.

The latest edition of Below the Lion Rock, RTHK’s long-running drama series on Hong Kong, will broadcast an episode based on Lam’s story at 9pm on Sunday.

The episode will depict Lam’s two-day trip to Hong Kong in June 2016 after he was ordered by his kidnappers to take a hard drive containing a list of customers from the bookstore back to Shenzhen. Lam ultimately chose to stay in Hong Kong to expose the incident despite potential threats to his safety.

Lam will be played by storyteller and poet Yuen Che-hung.

Lam Wing-kee drama RTHK
Yuen Che-hung (L) and Lam Wing-kee (R). Photo: RTHK.

Dunet Chan, the episode’s director, said he has been producing Below the Lion Rock drama episodes for the past two years, but described meeting more difficulties this time.

“I think it is related to the oppressive political atmosphere nowadays,” Chan wrote in a social media post. “When we were casting, many actors asked: ‘Wah, can you really shoot this?’ ‘Did RTHK approve this?’ ‘It seems very sensitive’.”

“I thought one actor fitted the role well, but he has family members in the mainland, so he could only tell us that he could not work on this after casting. More unfortunately, another actor accepted a role, and resigned a week before shooting. It was because she felt it was too risky after discussing with her family.”

BTLR ep1 promo

獅子山下 2018 第一集定風波 導演:陳上城編劇:陳上城主演:阮志雄(雄仔叔叔)故事改編自銅鑼灣書店店長林榮基剛從內地回港後的經歷。林榮基按指示回港取書店的電腦把讀者資料帶回深圳,林被安排到油麻地的酒店暫住,只能在香港逗留兩天。回港後,他發現同事給他的不是正確的電腦,從而他開始想像除了服從內地部門的其他可能。他走在油麻地的街頭,觀察到香港人各式其色的生活姿態,重新感受到香港人擁有的自由氣氛。離開前,他在九龍塘地鐵站外躊躇,靜靜地下了留港的決定。播映時間: 10月21號晚9點,港台電視31節目重溫:林榮基 #阮志雄 #雄仔叔叔 #陳上城 #銅鑼灣書店 #自由

Posted by 獅子山下 on Monday, 15 October 2018

Chan said he faced difficulties finding hotels for shooting locations as well.

“We asked many hotels – some would directly say they did not want to because the topic was too sensitive, or others would say they were fully booked,” he wrote.

“But when we searched for rooms at that hotel online, we found that there were lots of vacant rooms of different types. We told them that we found empty rooms on the hotel’s website, but they reminded us nervously that we should not book a room directly online,” Chan wrote.

Lam Wing-kee drama RTHK
A still photo of the Below the Lion Rock episode on Lam Wing-kee. Photo: RTHK.

But Chan said they were welcomed by bookstores.

“We asked a few small bookstores – almost all of them agreed to our shooting requests. Their cooperation, undoubtedly, comforted us during our difficult preparatory work,” he said.

“Every actor and every scene in this piece has met with different levels of pressure. That makes it even more precious that they are willing to present Hong Kong with their performance at this moment.”

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.