Hong Kong (AFP) - A member of a Hong Kong pro-democracy party was arrested Tuesday for "misleading police" after he said he was abducted and beaten by mainland Chinese agents who punctured his legs with staples.
Howard Lam said he had been kidnapped from a busy Hong Kong street in broad daylight over his plan to send a signed photo of footballer Lionel Messi to the widow of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
It is illegal for mainland agents to operate in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, but the alleged abductions of a bookseller and a reclusive mainland businessman have put the city on edge.
While Hong Kong still enjoys rights and freedoms unseen on the mainland, there are growing concerns over increased Chinese interference.
Police said Tuesday their investigation had cast doubt on Lam's story.
"Police have reason to believe that the person involved provided false information to mislead police personnel," the statement said.
But supporters of Lam questioned whether the case was being properly investigated.
Lam remained in custody Tuesday morning and calls by AFP went straight to his pager.
His arrest came after a report by local news agency FactWire, which acquired CCTV surveillance footage it said showed Lam walking in the neighbourhood of Yau Ma Tei after the time he alleged he had been abducted from there.
It reported the man it identified as Lam appeared in some footage wearing a cap, surgical mask and sunglasses, but said his gait and clothes matched earlier footage that showed his face.
"He was alone by himself, no one was seen being carried off," FactWire said.
When shown the footage by FactWire, Lam denied the masked man was him, saying it could be a body double, the agency reported.
At Friday's press conference, Lam said he had received a phone call last Tuesday from a man who claimed to speak for Chinese authorities telling him not to send a picture of Messi to the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo -- who died in Chinese custody from liver cancer last month, sparking global outrage.
Lam had previously said on Facebook that the Barcelona star had sent him the photo for Liu, who was reportedly a fan.
As it arrived after Liu's death, Lam had said he would try sending it to his widow Liu Xia.
Lam then said he had been forced into a van Thursday afternoon while out shopping.
Men later punched staples in his thighs and asked him whether he understood how to "love the country", Lam said.
Lam said he was abducted by Mandarin-speaking men. The official language in Hong Kong is Cantonese, while Mandarin is the main language over the border.
The Democratic Party, to which Lam belongs, said at the time they believed those who carried out the abduction were mainland agents.
Party veteran Albert Ho questioned Tuesday how FactWire had acquired the CCTV footage, suggesting it may have been leaked by police.
He said he did not consider the images conclusive and called for police to fully investigate Lam's allegations.