Hong Kong police yesterday offered protection to a bookseller who was detained in China for eight months without access to a lawyer, as Beijing warned that he was violating his bail terms.
Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) was seized after crossing the border into China and taken away blindfolded for allegedly taking banned books to the mainland, he said last month.
The 61-year-old is the manager of Causeway Bay Books, which sold salacious titles about leading Chinese politicians.
He is one of five men linked to the store or the Mighty Current publishing house who mysteriously went missing late last year and later emerged in China, intensifying concerns in Hong Kong about Beijing’s increasingly tight grasp on the territory.
Since returning to Hong Kong, Lam has said he fears for his personal safety, while other activists have alleged that Chinese agents abducted one of the other booksellers on Hong Kong soil.
Although the territory has the status of a special administrative region of China, the two have separate legal systems, distinct police jurisdictions and maintain strict border controls.
The case has fanned anxieties that the fiercely guarded liberties are being eroded.
Lam is the only one of the five booksellers to speak openly about the case and has suggested the other four feel too much pressure from China to do the same.
He was supposed to return to the mainland after being released to Hong Kong on bail last month, but has refused to do so.
The case has put China-friendly Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) in a very awkward position, trapped between his political masters in Beijing and Hong Kong residents angry about the territory’s direction.
“The government and I are paying close attention to the issue of Lam Wing-kei’s concerns for his personal safety,” Leung told reporters yesterday.
Hong Kong and China have no extradition treaty, meaning there is no obligation for the Hong Kong authorities to hand Lam back to China even if he is violating the terms of his bail.
Hong Kong Police Deputy Commissioner Tony Wong (黃志雄) said officers were willing to offer Lam police protection “if he wishes it.”
Activists have alleged that Chinese security agents are operating in the territory, which would be illegal under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Lam had been due to lead a pro-democracy march last week on the anniversary of the territory’s handover from Britain to China, but pulled out at the last minute, saying that he had been followed prior to the rally.
The police comments came after a new video released by Chinese authorities featured him in detention saying: “I am very regretful because I have broken Chinese laws.”
Lam has previously said he was forced into making the confession.
Chinese authorities have warned Lam that he was violating his bail terms and that he could face tougher action as a result, media reports said.
Leung said a team of senior officials who visited Beijing on Tuesday discussed Lam’s case and reviewed the mechanism whereby authorities on the mainland are required to give details about arrests of Hong Kong residents over the border.
Leung said the visit was productive, with both sides agreeing that mainland authorities should notify their Hong Kong counterparts of arrests and detentions within 14 days.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting