Booksellers Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, both associated with the Causeway Bay Books store, have accused their recently returned colleague Lam Wing-kee of lying and being manipulated.
All three went missing from China last October, before resurfacing on China’s Phoenix TV “confessing” to sending politically sensitive books – banned in China – to mainland customers. After Lam returned to Hong Kong this week, he held a press conference saying he was kidnapped, made to wear handcuffs and a blindfold and was taken to Ningbo by a “central special unit”. He was banned from outside communication in solitary confinement and says his TV “confession” was scripted and orchestrated. Lam stood accused of “illegal” business operations but has denied he did anything illegal.
In an interview with Sing Tao Daily on mainland China, Lui and Cheung denied Lam’s claims. Both men returned to the mainland after briefly reappearing in Hong Kong.
The pair said mainland investigators allowed them to contact their families, whilst Cheung said he was allowed to be released on bail in time for his daughter’s birth.
The interview came soon after a march in support of Lam, which organisers claimed 6,000 people participated in. The pro-Beijing Sing Tao Newspaper Group conducted “exclusive” interviews with the booksellers when they were detained on the mainland and after their return to Hong Kong.
No director, no script
Lui said papers he signed after he was brought from Shenzhen to Ningbo were from the Ningbo Public Security Bureau, thus suggesting a “central special unit” was not involved.
Lui added that he was asked whether he wanted to be interviewed, he agreed and claims what he said was truly from his heart.
“It was definitely not a forced confession, there was no director and script,” he told Sing Tao.
Lam also said at the press conference on Thursday that British national Lee Bo, another disappeared bookseller, told him in private that he was kidnapped.
The trio, and Lee, met in Shenzhen in March, though Lui told the newspaper that he never heard Lee saying he was kidnapped.
“I did not realise Lam Wing-kee is a dishonest man,” he said. “He should admit his crimes and bear the legal responsibilities.”
Cheung claimed Lam told him at the Shenzhen meeting that he did not want to return to Hong Kong due to issues with his family, and asked the public security bureau to help with his livelihood on the mainland.
“Lam Wing-kee has never said anything about being forced [to do something],” Cheung said.
Cheung said Lam “should not use his personal mistakes to mislead people and attack the One Country, Two Systems principle,” and he wished to “clarify some facts” so that people did not have to second guess.
‘Live in terror’
Meanwhile, a volunteer who worked at the bookstore before Lee Bo went missing claimed Lee had told him he was kidnapped by nine men, forced into a seven-seater vehicle and transported to the mainland by land.
On a D100 radio programme on Friday, Woo Chih-wai said he asked Lee whether he wanted to tell the truth after Lam’s revelations.
Woo quoted Lee as saying that he feared for the safety of his wife and his son if he did so, as someone told Lee that “if he revolts, he will be living in terror for his whole life.”
Lee denied Woo’s claims on Facebook on Saturday.
“Woo Chih-wai put words in my mouth, those were questions and answers he imagined himself – I knew of his ‘imaginative’ character, ” he said.
Lee also denied Lam Wing-kee’s claims.