Hong Kong democracy activist Howard Lam charged with misleading police over kidnapping claim

South China Morning Post

Bloodstained tissue and a cigarette packet recovered at location where Lam claimed he was taken by kidnappers

South China Morning Post |

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Police officers search for evidence in Tai Mong Tsai in Sai Kung.

A democracy activist who claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by mainland Chinese agents in Hong Kong was charged on Wednesday night with misleading police after his story unravelled during their hunt for evidence.

Howard Lam Tsz-kin’s case will be heard in Kowloon City Court on Thursday morning, but he will not make an appearance as he remains in hospital after complaining of feeling unwell.

Lam held a press conference last week claiming that he was pushed into a van in Yau Ma Tei on Thursday afternoon by Putonghua-speaking men who took him to an unknown location, punched staples into his legs and dumped him on a beach in Sai Kung from where he made his own way home in a taxi.“We received a report concerning unlawful detention, criminal intimidation and wounding. These are very serious allegations,” acting police commissioner Alan Lau Yip-shing said on Wednesday.

“But from our investigation result so far, we found these reports made by the informant were not correct. What he said to us did not comply with what we discovered.”

Earlier on Wednesday, officers recovered a bloodstained tissue and a cigarette packet while hunting for evidence at a beach in Sai Kung.

The bloodstained tissue was found on a Sai Kung beach.

Dozens of detectives and Police Tactical Unit officers combed the area after CCTV footage showed Lam travelling to the location on his own, instead of being taken there by kidnappers, as he had earlier claimed. 

Officers were also searching for a stapler and other items linked to the case.

Lam was arrested on suspicion of misleading police at 12:30am on Tuesday.

The Democratic Party member remained in a detention ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Wednesday after he complained of feeling sick at about midnight at Hung Hom police station, where he was being detained for questioning.

A police insider said he was in a stable condition, but would spend another night in hospital because of a serious headache. 

“When being detained at the police station, he complained about having an acid reflux and a serious headache and requested medical treatment,” the source said. “He has remained silent under questioning with his lawyer present.”

Howard Lam Tsz-kin at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Photo: Edward Wong/SCMP

Around 50 police officers searched for evidence on Tai Mong Tsai Road and a surrounding beach in Sai Kung in the morning, as CCTV footage showed that Lam took a minibus from Mong Kok to Sai Kung and that he appeared in Tai Mong Tsai at around 6pm. Footage also revealed that he walked to a beach outside Luna House on the road on his own – the beach that he claimed was where his abductors had dumped him.

“If he had stayed in the area for long hours, he must have left some clues or traces in the area,” the source said. “We are looking for items related to the case – maybe a stapler, packing paper or clothes.”

South China Morning Post reported earlier that the force might look into Lam’s mental health, as he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide in the past. Investigators suspected he might have harmed himself instead of being tortured.

Detectives found the crosses stapled onto the activist’s thighs had been punched in so neatly, without any scratches or other bruises, that they doubted his claim his abductors had held him down against his will to punish him for intending to send a photograph signed by soccer star Lionel Messi to the wife of the late Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo.