Hong Kong and Beijing must come clean over missing booksellers
At stake here is confidence in one country, two systems. The public needs further clarifications and assurances from both governments
Fresh doubts have emerged after one of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers spoke out shortly after returning from the mainland. The story told by Lam Wing-kee has shocked many people. Not only has it further undermined the perception of civil liberties on the mainland, but it has also raised serious questions over one country, two systems. Authorities on both sides of the border are now under growing pressure to clear the air.
Until there are full accounts from all the parties concerned, the public may not be in a position to make an informed judgment on what really happened. But Lam’s version has hit the nerve with many locals. Reports of his eight-month ordeal went viral on the internet over the past two days.
It has to be asked whether the Causeway Bay Books store manager has been treated properly according to mainland law and existing practices. He said he had been blindfolded and taken away after crossing the border in October; and had been confined to a small room under surveillance since then. The case was apparently not reported to the Hong Kong government according to the existing mechanism put in place. He said the confession he had made on television earlier was also orchestrated against his will.
Another key question is whether cross-border law enforcement has been involved. While Lam confirmed he had not been abducted from Hong Kong, he said his colleague Lee Po had told him that he had been taken away involuntarily. What’s more disturbing is the suggestion that the operation was carried out by a “special duty” unit that is outside law enforcement agencies and is answerable to the highest level in the Communist Party. But Lee yesterday dismissed Lam’s statements.
Six months have passed since the booksellers’ case came to light. Regrettably, the response from the Hong Kong government is far from reassuring. The statement from acting chief executive John Tsang Chun-wah yesterday does nothing to dispel worries that “one country, two systems” is being eroded Separately, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said Lam is a Chinese national; and when he breached Chinese law, the authority had the right to deal with it according to the law. Be that as it may, many key questions, such as over Lam’s right to legal representation and to contact his family, remain unanswered.
At stake is confidence in “one country, two systems”. The public cannot put the case behind it unless there are more clarifications and assurances from Beijing and the Hong Kong government.