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Howard Lam kidnap saga

Democracy activist who claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by Chinese agents over signed photograph of Barcelona star Lionel Messi ‘telling lies’, say prosecutors

  • Howard Lam, a founding member of the Democratic Party, made headlines when he claimed he had been abducted in August 2017
  • Prosecutors argue that he made the entire episode up, and believe they have the evidence to prove it
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 11:12pm

A democracy activist who claimed he was kidnapped, drugged and tortured by mainland Chinese agents after being snatched off a busy Hong Kong street in broad daylight was following a premeditated plan, prosecutors told a court on Friday.

But, Howard Lam Tsz-kin, 42, a founding member of the Democratic Party, has denied making a false report after telling detective police constable Wong Kai-pui during an interview at Queen Mary Hospital on August 11, 2017, that he was abducted on Portland Street, between Hamilton Street and Pitt Street, in Yau Ma Tei the previous afternoon.

When asked to confirm his plea again, the activist told acting chief magistrate So Wai-tak with a head shake: “Not going to admit it, of course not.”

Prosecutor Ken Ng Kim-man said: “He was consistently telling the lies. He acted in accordance with a plan.”

In opening the six-day trial, Ng said police had scoured 1,500 hours of security footage to trace Lam’s movements on August 10 and 11. They also found in his smartphone search history a query into the effects of chloroform, despite forensic tests finding no evidence of the chemical in his blood and urine.

During a press conference on August 11, 2017, Lam had claimed he was kidnapped, drugged, tortured and dumped at a Sai Kung beach.

He showed his punctured legs as evidence supporting his claims of the assault, which he said was linked to his intention to send a signed postcard from Barcelona football star Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, widow of the late mainland dissident, Liu Xiaobo.

Wong, who interviewed Lam for five hours starting at 3.30pm on August 11, testified that Lam also showed how two mandarin-speaking men snatched him, and re-enacted the neck-grabbing movements in court.

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Lam’s counsel, Joe Chan, read out a WhatsApp exchange his client claimed to have had with an alleged public security officer, surnamed Xu, on August 8, 2017.

“Don’t give Messi’s signed photograph to Liu Xia, don’t do it if you don’t want trouble,” Chan read. “There’s no use for you to call the police, this is the country’s business.”

Chan also said his client had told Wong he never intended to report the case to police, but the officer disagreed.

Prosecutors have gathered 66 witnesses in building their case against Lam, but will only summon five police officers and two experts to testify in court.

They will also rely on what Lam said in his press conference on August 11, 2017 and interviews with three media outlets, plus around 1,500 hours of security footage seized from streets, stores, lifts and lobbies across four districts.

These recordings showed Lam purchasing an Adidas shirt, two soccer jerseys and some accessories in Mong Kok after 3pm on August 10, 2017.

He was also caught on camera in the lobby of a building on Portland Street in Mong Kok at 5pm.

At 2am the following day he was caught on camera buying a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and two McDonald’s burgers, before making a HK$800 withdrawal, and a HK$25,000 transfer, at an ATM near his residence in Ma On Shan.

Knowingly making to police officer a false report of commission of any offence is punishable by a HK$1,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment.