Police search for taxi driver and van linked to Hong Kong kidnap claim

Democratic Party member Howard Lam discharged from hospital after surgery to remove staples as officers search for more CCTV footage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 1:19pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 12:10am

Hong Kong police expanded their search ­on Saturday for a van and taxi driver linked to a claim by an activist that mainland agents ­kidnapped and tortured him .

Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin underwent surgery on Friday night to remove 21 staples from his legs he said were punched into him by his abductors. He was discharged from Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam shortly before noon on Saturday, and declined an offer of police protection.

“I do not have much hope in the police as they are just the state apparatus. How much can they do on a political issue?” Lam said at the hospital.

“I am exhausted. I just want the matter to end soon.”

Torture of Hong Kong Democrat will not stop us fighting for release of dissident’s widow, activists say

Lam later elaborated on what he said happened in an interview with the Apple Daily newspaper. He said he was abducted near the junction of Hamilton and Portland streets in Yau Ma Tei after he bought a soccer shirt and after he used a toilet at a restaurant opposite Sino Centre on Nathan Road.

However, at his press conference on Friday he had made no mention of using the toilet.

A police source close to the investigation said ­officers would contact Lam to clarify the details he had given.

“He told us that he was taken away when he was on the way to the MTR station,” the source said. “ He did not tell us about the toilet visit. Maybe he forgot to tell us or skipped some details when he gave his statement. We will contact him and ask for information again.”

On Saturday morning and afternoon, officers from regional crime units and the city’s Police Tactical Unit went to Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei tosearch for more closed-circuit television footage and witnesses. Some showed shop staff a picture of Lam, asking if they had any information to offer.

“Lam claimed that two Putonghua-speaking men pushed him into a light goods vehicle. We are trying to get more footage from shops in the district to find if any suspicious vans were parked in the area,” a police source close to the investigation said. “We will run an examination for toxins on Lam as there could be chemicals left in his blood if he was drugged.”

At a press conference on Friday, Lam claimed he was pushed into a van, tortured and later dumped on a beach in Sai Kung in eastern Hong Kong by mainland Chinese agents. He then took a taxi home early on Friday morning without reporting the case to police or going to hospital for treatment.

Later on Friday he showed the media about 20 staples still in his legs, before going to Queen Mary Hospital.

Lam said he believed the reason for the alleged kidnapping was that he had received a signed postcard from Barcelona football star Lionel Messi last month addressed to late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and he intended to pass it on to Liu Xia, his widow.

A police force insider said officers had been looking for the taxi driver said to have driven Lam home on Friday morning.

Hong Kong police investigate democracy activist’s claim he was kidnapped and tortured by mainland China agents

“The driver could confirm if Lam took the ride, where the driver picked him up and what Lam did and said in the cab during the ride,” the source said.

Officers made trips to beaches in Sai Kung to look for evidence but nothing related was found. “We will also collect CCTV footage from the hotel nearby,” the source added.

Speaking to the media at the hospital on Saturday, Lam said the surgery, which lasted half an hour, was done with no anaesthetic. He said he was tired and in pain, but would continue with plans to study in the United States later this month.

HOWARD LAM’S CLAIMS AND ACCUSATIONS

Monday, August 7

Howard Lam Tsz-kin said he received a phone call from a mainland acquaintance, warning him not to give the signed postcard to Liu Xia, widow of the late mainland dissident, Liu Xiaobo. He said the acquaintance warned him that he would pay if he ignored the warning.

Thursday, August 10, about 4pm

Lam said he went to a shop on Portland Street in Yau Ma Tei to pick up a Barcelona soccer shirt and left the shop half an hour later.

He claims two Putonghua-speaking men approached him on the same street, near the junction with Hamilton Street. He said he was pushed into a van, drugged, and the kidnappers switched off his phone.

Lam said he woke up later and found that he was blindfolded and was only in his underwear with his arms and legs tied.

He claimed there were four to five people in the room and he was tortured. He said the kidnappers asked if he knew Liu Xia and accused him of not knowing how to love his country. Lam said the culprits then punched staples into his legs.

Friday, August 11, between 1am and 2am

Lam said he woke up and found himself dumped on a beach in Sai Kung, wearing clothes and with his wallet and phone.

He said he walked on the road for 10 minutes until he got a cab to Ma On Shan where he lived. He gave HK$100 to the driver but did not remember how much change he was given.

He said he ate at a nearby restaurant and went home. He washed his clothes and went to bed.

Friday, August 11, 11am

Lam held a press conference with fellow party members. He showed the 21 staples on his legs. After the event, Lam went to Queen Mary Hospital for medical treatment and reported the case to police.