Bookseller defies Beijing

  • China
  • Sunday, 19 Jun 2016

Freed Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee attends a demonstration in Hong Kong, Saturday, June 18, 2016 as the protesters marched to the Chinese central governments liaison office. The Hong Kong booksellers revelation of months spent in harrowing detention by mainland Chinese authorities is inflaming tense relations between the semiautonomous city and Beijing, with pro-democracy activists staging protests Friday. Lam Wing-kees account to reporters directly contradicted the official version of events surrounding the disappearance of him and four other men linked to a Hong Kong publisher of banned books on Chinas Communist leadership. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong bookseller who said he was blindfolded, interrogated and detain­ed in China led a protest march defying Beijing as pressure grows for authorities to answer questions over the case.

Lam Wing-kee (pic) is one of five booksellers who went missing last year – all worked for a publisher known for salacious titles about leading Chinese politicians.

The case heightened fears that Beijing was tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong, with Lam’s explosive revelations earlier this week about how he had been detained in China further fanning many residents’ concern.

Lam said yesterday that he did not feel afraid after breaking bail, refusing to return to the mainland and breaking silence on his detention.

“I don’t feel scared because there are so many people here,” said Lam, surrounded by more than 1,000 supporters who had gathered to protest against his detention and to demand answers from the city’s authorities over the booksellers’ case.

“I’m happy to be back in Hong Kong,” he said.

He added that he had been contacted by the city’s police but had not yet responded to them.

He would give no detail about where he was now living.

Leading the rally, he shouted slogans including “Say no to authority!” and “Hong Kong has a bottom line!“

The protesters, carrying banners saying “Fight until the very end”, marched from the Causeway Bay Bookstore, the business at the centre of the controversy, to China’s liaison office.

There they burned a Chinese Communist Party flag emblazoned with a picture of China’s President Xi Jinping and threw leaflets printed with photos of Lam over the outer fence before dispersing peacefully.

Lam had left the protest before it reached the liaison office.

In a press conference, Lam told how he had been blindfolded and transported north after crossing the border into the mainland to visit his girlfriend in October.

Lam said he was kept in a room, interrogated for months and forced to sign away his right to a lawyer or contact with his family.

He also described how he recited a scripted confession broadcast on Chinese state television, admitting to trading banned books, out of fear.

Pro-democracy lawmakers are demanding to know what Hong Kong authorities have done to help the booksellers, accusing them of being a puppet of Beijing.

They say China has violated the semi-autonomous system under which the city is ruled.

Beijing, however, has refused to be drawn on Lam’s accusations, saying only that it is entitled to pursue the case as he broke mainland Chinese laws.

Hong Kong authorities have expressed “concern”, saying they are attempting to speak to Lam.

In an editorial yesterday, the South China Morning Post, which has recently been criticised for being too Beijing-friendly, also demanded both sides “come clean” on the matter. — AFP

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