Hong Kong police investigate democracy activist’s claim he was kidnapped and tortured by mainland China agents
Democrat Howard Lam says he was drugged and abducted on busy city thoroughfare but sources say initial sweep of CCTV footage shows nothing suspicious
Hong Kong police have promised a full investigation into a democracy activist’s claim that he was kidnapped in broad daylight by agents from the mainland on one of the city’s busy thoroughfares, drugged, tortured and dumped at a beach.
Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin said on Friday his abductors punched staples into his legs during his ordeal, which he linked to his intention to send a signed postcard from Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, widow of the late mainland dissident, Liu Xiaobo.
Holding a press conference on Friday morning to tell his story, Lam showed his injuries to the cameras. Asked why he had not reported his case to police right away, the activist said he was too tired after reaching home at 3am that day.
Upon the advice of his party, he decided to host a press conference first and go to hospital before making a police report.
Officers later took a statement from him at Queen Mary Hospital.
Police said an initial sweep of CCTV footage from the area where he was allegedly abducted did not show anything suspicious, but they would continue their investigation.
According to Lam, he received a phone call from a mainland acquaintance on Monday, warning him not to give Liu the postcard.
“He warned that I’d pay if I ignored the warning,” the activist said.
He received the postcard after writing to the soccer club that Liu had been a fan of Messi. With Liu’s wife incommunicado since the dissident died of cancer last month, Lam said he did not know where she was either. He passed the card to a local alliance that supports dissidents on the mainland.
He said he was approached by two men on Portland Street in Yau Ma Tei, near the junction with Hamilton Street, at around 4pm on Thursday, after he bought a soccer jersey. They spoke to him in Putonghua and pushed him into a van.
“I woke up later when someone hit me with a hard object,” he said. “At that time, I was only wearing my underwear, I was blindfolded and my limbs were tied up.”
Lam said there were four to five people in the room when he was tortured in a building he could not identify. They did not answer when he asked them to identify themselves. He was conscious for about 10 to 20 minutes as his kidnappers accused him of not knowing how to love his country.
“A man asked if I knew Liu Xia,” he said. “The man also said: ‘Are you a Christian? Do you know how to love the country and the religion? ... I’ll give you some crosses,’ he said, and then he stapled my legs.”
Lam showed the media about 20 staples still on his legs.
“I passed out again, and when I woke up I found myself dumped on a beach and it was about 1am ... I was in Sai Kung,” he said. “When I woke up, I was wearing my clothes and had my wallet and phone with me.”
Asked if he would seek protection, Lam said he did not trust Hong Kong police.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor did not comment, but her office said a police investigation was under way.
“We appeal to the person to fully cooperate with the investigation,” it said. “Without any evidence and factual details, it is not appropriate to raise any speculation or make accusations.”
Police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said detectives were already on the case, and while they were still establishing the facts, he would not tolerate other law enforcement agencies carrying out duties beyond their jurisdiction.
“The allegations are serious, and the force attaches great importance to the case,” Lo said, appealing to the public to report crimes promptly, as delays would allow culprits time to flee or destroy evidence.
Shortly after 4pm on Friday, police officers were seen looking for evidence in Yau Ma Tei. They entered the shop where Lam bought the soccer jersey. Officers also went to Sai Kung to collect evidence.
“There is no footage that captured where Lam went after he left the shop,” a police source told the Post. “None of the footage that we have screened so far showed any suspicious person around that area. But we are still investigating the case on the basis of unlawful detention and trying to get hold of more CCTV footage.”
The Democratic Party said it saw no reason to doubt the activist’s story, with lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting calling it a serious violation of the “one country, two systems” policy.
“The government needs to tell us if Hong Kong residents still enjoy freedom from fear and abduction,” he said.
Political commentator Professor Lau Siu-kai said there was no evidence to prove the involvement of mainland agents.
“Beijing would not allow incidents like this to damage Hong Kong people’s confidence in ‘one country, two systems’.”