‘Disappeared’ Hong Kong bookseller returns after 8 months, says his TV confession was scripted

Hong Kong students protest disappearance of five missing booksellers (Credit VOA News/Reuters)

Hong Kong students protest disappearance of five missing booksellers (Credit VOA News/Reuters)

JISHOU, HUNAN — Eight months after he disappeared from Hong Kong, bookseller Lam Wing-kee has returned home, with stories of his apprehension by mainland authorities and detention in a small room in Ningbo, Zhejiang province.

Lam said his confession on mainland TV in February of selling banned materials was carefully scripted, and that his captors made him repeat the script several times until they were satisfied with the results.

Lam and four other men associated with a Hong Kong bookstore selling books critical of the Chinese Communist Party disappeared from Thailand, Hong Kong and the mainland at different times last year. Lam returned two days ago. One associate, Swedish national Gui Minhai, remains in custody on the mainland.

At a press conference at Legco — the Legislative Council for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) — Lam related how he was picked up in October on his way to Shenzhen, which lies just across the river from Hong Kong on the mainland. Though Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997, the SAR is supposedly autonomous; people passing between HK and the mainland must pass a border control point.

As reported in the South China Morning Post today, Lam said he was approached by mainland police officers at the Lo Wu checkpoint, handcuffed and blindfolded, and taken on a long train ride. Lam said he was sure the destination was Ningbo, about 13 hours away.

After taking him to a compound 45 minutes from the train station, he was told he could be released if he gave the mainland authorities a hard drive showing who had bought the books in question. Lam said at the press conference that he was sure they really wanted to know who wrote the books, however.

The Causeway Bay bookstore sold many books containing sensational stories about Communist Party leaders, including President Xi Jinping. Publication and sales of the books are legal in Hong Kong, but not on the mainland. Many Hong Kongers are convinced mainland authorities detained the five booksellers, despite the supposed separation of mainland and SAR legal systems.

Lam said he was kept alone in a small room and monitored closely. In February, he appeared on mainland TV to deliver a confession he had sold clandestine materials on the mainland and apologized for his errors.

“It was a show, and I accepted it,” he said, according to the SCMP. “They gave me the script. I had to follow the script. If I did not follow it strictly, they would ask for a re-take.”

Finally, he returned to Hong Kong on Tuesday, and told local police to drop their investigation into his disappearance, as had his four associates on their return earlier this year.

The BBC also has a summary of key events.

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