Hong Kong is to review its system of criminal notifications with China after authorities in Beijing took months to provide information about the detention of a Hong Kong citizen, despite repeated requests from the territory’s police.
Lam Wing-kei (林榮基), one of five Hong Kong booksellers who were held in China, last week returned to the territory and detailed his months-long detention in China, reigniting a case that had drawn international criticism about Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“Today we will write to the central government to immediately express Hong Kong people’s concerns on this case,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) said at a news conference yesterday.
“There’s room for review and possibly improvement in the notification system,” he added.
In Leung’s first public comments on the matter, he told reporters that he “attaches great importance” to Lam’s case.
Lam last week said that he was accosted by 11 people after crossing the border into Shenzhen on Oct. 24 last year and was taken to the eastern city of Ningbo, where he was confined to a small room for months, and interrogated about the publishing company’s authors and customers.
Two other men who worked at the Hong Kong bookshop, Causeway Bay Books, known for its salacious publications about the Chinese Communist Party elite, were also taken into custody on the mainland in October last year.
Another, Lee Bo (李波), vanished from Hong Kong in December last year, sparking allegations that he had been abducted.
Gui Minhai (桂民海), who holds a Swedish passport, disappeared from Thailand in October last year.
Police in Guangdong Province only told their Hong Kong counterparts on Feb. 4 — months after the disappearances — that booksellers Lam, Lui Bo (呂波) and Cheung Jiping (張志平) were being probed in connection with Gui, the author of some of the books.
Lam, who was the bookshop’s manager, was allowed to return to Hong Kong last week on the condition he bring back a hard drive containing a list of the shop’s clients, including many mail-order customers in China. However, he changed his mind at the last minute and instead spoke publicly about his ordeal.
Lam said he had spoken to Lee when they were both detained in China, and that Lee told him that he had been kidnapped in Hong Kong.
However, on Friday last week Lee disputed that account on Facebook, saying he never told Lam how he got to China and never said he was taken against his will.
Lam also said a confession he had made that was broadcast on Chinese TV had been scripted, edited and supervised by a director.
Lui and Cheung have disputed Lam’s account, according to interviews in the territory’s Sing Tao Daily newspaper.
The case has fanned concerns about China’s encroachment on the territory’s autonomy, guaranteed to the former British colony under the “one country, two systems” principle when it was returned to China in 1997.
Thousands of protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets on Saturday in a show of support for Lam and the territory’s autonomy.
Hong Kong’s government in February said that only Hong Kong’s law enforcement agencies can enforce laws in the territory and that its police were seeking assistance from Chinese authorities.
Additional reporting by AP
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