Chief Executive Carrie Lam is among 11 Mainland and Hong Kong officials recently sanctioned by the US government. As her younger son Joshua Lam Yeuk-hay is a graduate student in the US, public concern about his situation has grown. FactWire recently attempted to contact Joshua Lam and learned that – since July 25 – his roommate had begun to lose contact with him.
On July 27, Lam responded to his roommate on Facebook about “a family emergency” that required him to urgently return to Hong Kong. Lam then sent an email to his landlord confirming that he would continue leasing his apartment until August 2021. However, no direct contact had been made with Lam since then, and the Office of the Chief Executive did not respond to FactWire’s enquiry about his whereabouts.
FactWire contacted Lam’s landlord upon a visit to his address in Boston, Massachusetts. The landlord told FactWire that she had been in touch with Lam’s roommate, who contacted her on July 25 to ask if she knew of his whereabouts. Later, the landlord decided to give Lam a call, only to hear a message from Lam’s wireless carrier Verizon: “This call cannot be completed because there are restrictions on this line. Announcement 24.”
Two days later, on July 27, the landlord was told by Lam’s roommate that he had contacted them through Facebook about having to return to Hong Kong for a “family emergency.”
That same day, the landlord emailed Lam asking him if he would continue renting the apartment as he had not renewed the lease for the next year (September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021). Email records show that the landlord emailed Lam at 10:33am on July 27, letting him know that the call placed on July 26 had not gone through, and that – if he would like to continue leasing the apartment – she would reserve it for him. That same night, at 9:31pm, Lam responded: “I will rent the entire apartment for the year Sept 1st, 2020 to August 31st, 2021. Please send me the lease to sign.”
As of August 7, Lam has not signed the lease, nor responded to the landlord’s multiple emails. However, rent payment was received through a payment application on August 1. Meanwhile, the landlord was also told by Lam’s roommate that his personal belongings remained at the apartment.
Lam had previously rented another apartment in Boston, Massachusetts. A woman and a man answered the door when FactWire visited the apartment. The man and Lam shared the same alma mater – he remarked that he used to meet Lam every week until he recently became too busy. The woman who stood beside him said that the last time she saw Lam was on July 13 when he came to pack up his belongings and collect his mail.
The man immediately tried to call Lam only to hear Verizon’s message: “This call cannot be completed because there are restrictions on this line. Announcement 24.” Both pointed out that Lam’s phone line had always been reachable prior to that point. They found it weird and alarming that his phone line was answered by Verizon’s “Announcement 24” and were both very worried about his situation.
According to information online, “Announcement 24” is a notification enabled by the wireless carrier Verizon when an account is restricted. There can be several reasons for the restrictions including a failure to pay a phone bill.
Lam did not further elaborate upon the “family emergency” beyond his first message to his roommate. FactWire attempted to contact Lam’s colleagues and supervisors within the mathematics department at Harvard University, including multiple calls to his supervisors that have gone unanswered with the line disconnected after several attempts.
FactWire also contacted the Office of the Chief Executive about whether or not Lam was currently in Hong Kong. No response has been received thus far.
On August 7, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against 11 Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese officials. Aside from the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam, the list of sanctioned officials includes Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) Chris Tang, Former Commissioner of HKPF Stephen Lo, HKSAR Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, HKSAR Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, HKSAR Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang, Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Xia Baolong, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office Luo Huining, Director at the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong Zheng Yanxiong, and Secretary General for the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the HKSAR Eric Chan.
For those on the sanctions list, all property, interests in property, directly and indirectly-owned entities in the US totalling 50 percent or more have been blocked and must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In addition to barring transactions between U.S. persons and the sanctioned individuals, the US president’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization prohibits the sanctioned individuals and their immediate family members from entering the United States.