Missing Hong Kong bookseller exposes truth about China’s involvement

Hong Kong’s missing booksellers. All are linked to the publisher Mighty Current and its shop Causeway Bay Books. (Photo: Reuters) (Top, right) Gui Minhai, the owner of Mighty Current. (Bottom, right) Cheung Chi Ping, the business manager of Mighty Current. (Top, center) Lam Wing-Kee, the manager of Causeway Bay Books. (Bottom, center) Lui Por, the general manager of Mighty Current. (Left) Lee Bo, an editor of Mighty Current and major shareholder in Causeway Bay Books.

Hong Kong’s missing booksellers. All are linked to the publisher Mighty Current and its shop Causeway Bay Books. (Photo: Reuters)

(Top, right) Gui Minhai, the owner of Mighty Current.

(Bottom, right) Cheung Chi Ping, the business manager of Mighty Current.

(Top, center) Lam Wing-Kee, the manager of Causeway Bay Books.

(Bottom, center) Lui Por, the general manager of Mighty Current.

(Left) Lee Bo, an editor of Mighty Current and major shareholder in Causeway Bay Books.

One of the five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing in 2015 has given a detailed account of his ordeal — in defiance of mainland China.

Lam Wing-Kee, the manager of Causeway Bay Books, spoke publicly about his detention at a surprise news conference held in Hong Kong’s legislative building.

According to Lam, he was detained by Chinese officials on October 24, while at Hong Kong-China border control in Shenzhen. He was handcuffed, blindfolded and detained overnight in the holding pen at a police station.

In the morning, he was transported — still handcuffed and blindfolded — to Ningbo, where he was coerced into waiving his rights to notify his family or seek legal representation.

Over the course of his detention, Lam was subjected to frequent interrogations, where he was accused of illegally sending banned books to mainland China.

“[Mailing books] is completely legitimate in Hong Kong and I did not break the law,” said Lam. “So I don’t understand why the action of mailing books in Hong Kong would be counted as breaking [Chinese] laws.”

In March 2016, Lam was transferred to Shaoguan, located in northern Guangdong. Although he was compensated with money and lodging, Lam was not allowed to return to Hong Kong.

His eventual release was conditional on his retrieving and turning over a hard drive from Causeway Bay Books that contained more information about customers to whom the bookstore had sent the banned books.

But Lam has no intention of returning with the information. Most of the bookstore’s 600 customers live on the mainland.

"I had to be very courageous. I thought about it for two nights before I decided tell you all what happened, as originally and completely as I could,” said Lam.

"I also want to tell the whole world. This isn't about me, this isn't about a bookstore, this is about everyone."

Unlike the other booksellers, Lam has no family in mainland China. He believes this has made it easier for him to speak up.

Lam’s revelations have been met with shock and outrage, both in Hong Kong as well as internationally.

“He has exposed what many have suspected all along: that this was a concerted operation by the Chinese authorities to go after the booksellers,” said Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously denied being responsible for the abductions.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government would only say that the police would contact Lam to “understand more,” as the government “attaches importance to the personal safety of every Hong Kong resident.”