Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee gets his life back as police end 24-hour protection
Causeway Bay Books founder says force agreed to let him leave safe house after conducting a risk assessment
Police have withdrawn round-the-clock protection for bookseller Lam Wing-kee as the Causeway Bay Books founder says he wants to live a normal life.
Lam, one of five booksellers who disappeared last year and turned up in mainland custody, has made explosive claims about how he was kidnapped while crossing the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Lam said he asked police to stop offering him protection at a safe house arranged by the force about a month ago and that the protection was withdrawn two weeks later.
“Police acceded to my request after its risk assessment found there would be no problem to stop the round-the-clock protection for me,” he said, expressing his gratitude to officers.
The force gave Lam a phone and had been in contact daily to make sure he was safe. Starting from this week they would only be in touch once a week.
In a sign that his life is returning to normal, Lam will attend a ceremony outside government headquarters in Admiralty on Wednesday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Occupy Central protests.
He also plans to take part in events like the annual July 1 march to make his voice heard.
Lam accepted a police offer to protect him in early July after claiming he had been tailed six times since returning to the city in June.
“I can’t live a normal life under round-the-clock protection. I had to stay at the flat all the time and so I don’t have the freedom to walk around,” he said. “Now that the incident [abduction] has started to die down, I want to live a normal life again.”
Since the force started offering him protection at an undisclosed location, Lam said he had only gone out to meet friends two or three times. He had to make a request to the force a week in advance before he was allowed to leave the safe house.
Looking ahead, Lam said he actively took part in social movements and urged other Hongkongers to do the same.
“I will do what every Hongkonger should do, and that is to come out at times of injustice,” he said. “I will come out and fulfil my responsibility as a Hong Kong citizen because I have a responsibility to help the next generation.
“One or two years later, I hope that Hong Kong will still be a place where we can all enjoy the freedom of speech.”
The disappearances of the booksellers sparked fears that they were kidnapped by mainland agents because their bookstore mainly sold and published in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
After returning to Hong Kong, Lam revealed that he was kidnapped by agents from a “central special investigative unit” after crossing the border into Shenzhen last October.
He said he was first taken, blindfolded and handcuffed, by train from Shenzhen to Ningbonear Shanghai. In Ningbo, he was detained in a facility where he was watched around the clock, he said. In April, Lam was transferred to Shaoguan, Guangdong, where he had to stay in a hotel.
Lam, who told the Post in an interview in July that he would leave Hong Kong if his family members and friends got into trouble because of him, said he would stay in Hong Kong as the city was relatively free and safe.