Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Full, complete transcript of returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee’s press conference and Q&A

Below is a full and complete transcript of returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee’s explosive revelations, shared at the legislature on June 16th, 2016.

lam wing-kee

Last October 24th, when I crossed the Shenzhen border to visit my girlfriend in Dongguan, I was detained by Shenzhen police.

So when I was detained, I asked them what crimes had I committed. I kept asking for an entire day, and nobody was able to answer me. I recalled that when I crossed the border, the gate closed. I was trapped at the crossing, and then two officers… pointed and then a few more customs officers came. I don’t know if this counts as detainment.

They took me to a corner on the left, and they probably recognised me. And then there were a few people, I remember – there were at least 11 people, they took me away to examine [me], and then [we went] to the Shenzhen police station, where they confiscated my identification documents.

At that time I went after them and asked what crimes I had committed. All along nobody answered me so I could only sit inside the police station, the place where I was detained, until it was nighttime. There, someone who asked me “Your surname is Lam, right?”

My ID and everything had been taken away when I was crossing the border, so I was in the police station that night. I was in the criminal’s chair. I sat there and I could not sleep, but of course there was food provided for me to eat. Around 7 o’clock, very early [in the morning], the people from the police station and some who took me away gave me breakfast to eat. [Then] I remember I sat in a car and was headed to the North of China, heading in that direction.

As they were taking me away, they handcuffed me. I wore an eye mask and they gave me a baseball cap almost covering me entirely, and I sat on the train, and sometimes I sneaked a peek [to see] just what crimes had I committed and where was I going. I sat on the train for a total of 13 to 14 hours and then later on I found that they had taken me to some place in Ningbo – I saw that when we got off.

[After] getting off the train, they took me to a large compound which was about 45 minutes away by car. They took me to one of the rooms on maybe the second floor, and they searched me, and that night I also asked them what crimes I had committed, and still no one could answer me. And then the next day, around the afternoon, someone came and did a news piece with me and at that time they did not tell me what crimes I had committed.

They detained me, they only gave me two pieces of paper and asked me to sign my name.

On one piece of paper, there were two conditions – one is that I promise to give up my rights to contact my family, the other is to promise not to hire a lawyer.

Under these conditions, in reality I did not have any ways to find anyone who could give me any suggestions. I was alone so I could only sign the paper because the situation was that I could not refuse to sign the paper, so… They started asking me my position at the bookstore, and if I was previously the owner of that bookstore. It is the Causeway Bay Bookstore.

They also asked me why I continuously helped mainlanders send books [into the mainland], where I had made my profits from at the bookstore, what made me sell [the bookstore] to the publisher Mighty Current, what relationship did I have with Mighty Current before that. And of course we are a legitimate bookstore according to Hong Kong law, running a typical small bookstore for Hong Kong is legal.

At first they said because in Hong Kong I brought or sent some banned books into the mainland that I had broken their law and they said… that books published in Hong Kong are basically not allowed  to be sent or brought into the mainland, and that counts as an illegal activity. Then they said that they might prosecute me afterwards because I had broken their law by sending books from 2013 till 2015. Before that I had also brought some books across the border.

One time I was discovered by them, and they verbally warned me, detaining me for a few hours.

They also said that me bringing books [into the mainland] broke laws of the Chinese government. After that time I no longer dared to bring books and switched [my] thinking.

Some readers like to read. Hong Kong is a free [place] where you can read and publish and I thought that on one hand it was a necessity [of running the bookstore], on the other hand it also satisfies mainland readers and situations they want to understand.

So I helped them send books from Hong Kong. My situation is legal in Hong Kong and did not violate any Hong Kong laws so I did not understand why my sending books from Hong Kong had violated their laws. If they think I had broken Chinese law they can, in Hong Kong, go through criminal prosecution or the court to prosecute me because there is such a space and such condition.

Why did the Chinese government when I was crossing the border say nothing and suddenly detained me? Of course in this process they did not give me any difficulties, they gave me food to eat there was a doctor for me to see, there was a place for me to sleep. But from October 24th, apart from one night in Shenzhen [I sat] on a train to go to Ningbo, November December January February March, five months I was in a room of around 200-300 square feet. 24 hours.

Two in a group, six groups of people took turns monitoring me in the 24 hours. Took away all my freedoms.

I want to ask whether this detainment is necessary before they charged me. They beautified it and said that it was “monitored living”. I didn’t even [have the chance to] do anything wrong. I could only look up into the sky. I could not hire a lawyer. I was not allowed to call my family.

I didn’t know that such a big and strong Chinese government could do [this] to a bookstore. To think that it has violated Chinese laws, that it can treat people like that.

I want to invite relevant departments in the Chinese government to give me an explanation, because this incident is not just a personal matter or a matter of Causeway Bay Books. It is a matter of Hongkongers’ rights, the freedom to read anything.

You say “One Country, Two Systems”. Please regarding Hong Kong’s freedoms… my personal experience, as well as my colleagues, did the Chinese government violate “One Country, Two Systems”? We don’t need to do anything to make a fuss. We just need to watch.

Justice is in our hearts. That is why I had come out [to speak] through Albert Ho, to meet with Hong Kong and world media, saying what I want to say.

After March, they let me go to Shaoguan. Shaoguan was better but I could not leave a certain area in Shaoguan. They rented a room for me to live long term, to intend for me to live long term from around April, because they released me in March. I lived there until now, June. The time there was more relaxing and the let me read freely.

They arranged accommodations for me and they successfully requested that Mighty Current, as a compensation for dismissal, pay me HK$100,000 [to cover my] living expenses. This is what they did to take care of us and this was what let me solve daily problems while I was staying there, a sort of compensation for us. But this, personally, I was not the one requesting this. The only thing I hoped to request was freedom.

Until just now, the day before yesterday, because I had always requested to come back to Hong Kong to meet with my family and my teacher, we talked for a very long time before they agreed [to let me go]. But they had a condition. They requested that I take the hard disk with records of those who we sent books to in the past and bring it back to them as evidence.

When they had interrogated me before, I did not think that they would do this. From what I remember, [they asked] Lee Bo to copy [information from] a hard disk for them in Hong Kong and they showed me the information on a computer. They asked me to identify who had ordered books and what relations I had with them.

I knew that they will investigate those readers according to the information. Why I am speaking about this here is because I didn’t want to risk it. The thing I am scared of is that my readers will be affected and that they will think that we Hongkongers, or me, betrayed them. But I did not do that.

At first I thought that telling [the guards] directly, they will have the information but not the physical object. But I didn’t expect that they will find someone to copy it from Hong Kong. Now it’s getting so bad that they are asking me to get the hard drive for them as evidence for court.

When I had come over [to Hong Kong], they did not let me go alone. There as a director surnamed Chen and then there was a Mr Shi. Mr Shi was very nice to me. He looked after me and for this I am personally very grateful towards him. He had always looked after me. But policy wise many things were not up to him.

I have a girlfriend because I met her after I separated from my wife. I hope that this is made clear – I met her after I separated from my wife. She is still in the mainland now. Because I had asked her to help me send some books, meaning that it also involves her, that she is also seen as having violated Chinese law and is in the same situation as me. She is now on bail and awaiting trial and is living in the mainland.

I have a few colleagues who are in Hong Kong who have to go back to the mainland, for example, Lee Bo and Lui Por. Cheung Chi-ping is in the mainland. I hope that the Chinese government will not, because of this incident [my press conference], cause trouble for my friends and colleagues. I hope that the Chinese government will treat them kindly just like how God treats people kindly. I can only hope that it is like that.

In the two days since I came back to Hong Kong, I actually almost did not sleep at all. Because I didn’t have information in the mainland, I completely did not understand what happened because of this incident [of the missing booksellers]. I looked up information for two days, news for two days. I am very touched, especially because of the 6,000 protesters who went on the streets. These 6,000 people are all Hongkongers and I do not know them. They can do this for the five of us, a small publisher, a bookstore, to speak out for us and voice their support.

I am very grateful because of these five people, compared to them, I have less [connections in the mainland]. At least my family is not in the mainland, only my girlfriend. I feel sorry for this girlfriend of mine, but I thought about the fact that this matter is no longer my own. It matters to the entire society, Hong Kong society, and everybody’s demands for freedom.

The Chinese government has left Hong Kong people with nowhere else to retreat to. This is the bottom line. Especially since Lee Bo …was kidnapped. This is something we can’t accept…crossing the border and enforcing the law. If you say this is One Country, Two Systems – what problems does this have? I don’t want to go into it.

I reiterate, this evidence here is …I was willing. I’ve thought about this carefully. Hong Kong is a place of rule of law and there is still a protection of rights. I’m not worried about my personal safety here. I also do not plan to go to the mainland in the future.

I only want to convey one message here. Hong Kong people – there are a lot of Hong Kong reporters here – we’re all pretty much in the same boat. Myself, or my colleagues at the bookstore, lost our freedom. This will happen to all of you in the future. This is for sure. If nobody speaks out, if I, the one of five with the smallest burden, doesn’t speak out, there is no salvation for Hong Kong.

I will do everything I can. Everything I can. I had to muster a lot of courage. I thought about it all night for two nights, until I could half make sense of it. … and tell everyone, and tell everyone in the world. If we don’t consider this my personal matterHong Kong people have a baseline. Hong Kong people will not submit to authority.

Ho: There are a lot of people here. I’ll pick people to ask questions.

Mr. Lam, can you say who arrested you and did they tell you clearly, at the end, what crime you committed, and was national security involved? And was Gui Minhai’s video the same situation as yours, made voluntarily?

When they caught me in Shenzhen, they didn’t tell me what crime I had committed.

And now?

When I reached Ningbo and they were interrogating me, that’s when someone told me I had broken the business law.

Because of the books?

The books. It was also because I was in Hong Kong sending books to the mainland for readers. You asked who they were? They never told me, up until now. But I heard. They weren’t national security, and they weren’t police.

The military?

Not military either. They were the “Central Special Unit.” On this, I…except for hearing it during the Cultural Revolution, I don’t know. If you say “Central Special Unit” or whatever… if they can use this “Central Special Unit,” I think we should all think about what “Central Special Unit” means. I’m really not sure.

Were you the only one in Ningbo, or were the others in Ningbo as well? Also did you see the others afterwards?

No. I only knew that the others were in Ningbo as well.

You knew the others were in Ningbo. Did you have tea together? There were reports that said you drank tea together.

Drinking tea together was arranged by them. They took us to a place called Shenzhen Kylin Villa and at the time, Lee Bo gave…everyone, all three of us…the HK$100,000 to us as a severance fee. It was to cover our living expenses to stay in the mainland.

Do you think the Hong Kong government, in saving people –

I’m not aware of anyone that the Hong Kong government has saved.

Everyone else has already been let go. Why were you released so late?

Was it because you wouldn’t give in?

No, I’m not that brave.

I’m just a regular Hong Kong person. If they wanted me to sign, I signed. If they wanted me to act in a video, I acted. Minhai’s video…Gui Minhai’s video, did you answer the way they told you to? On Phoenix TV.

I don’t know about the others, but I had a director and a script that they wanted me to read.

What was it like at the time?

At the time, if I couldn’t remember they would give me more time, and I would write it out.

From the beginning, how did they tell you to say it… how long…

In… they said it was illegal business operations, going to the mainland to sell books…

Can you tell us about the entire set up for the video interview?

It’s very simple. They mainly wanted me to read. One part was taken from the evidence letter I wrote. If they weren’t satisfied we would add to it or take away. They wanted me to remember it, and then in the video say it according to the script. That’s it, but of course they had not used physical force on me.

But which parts were done according to your wishes?

Well, they think I committed a crime but of course I don’t agree. I really don’t think I committed a crime.

In the video you said you knew the books were made up…

That’s right.

You said you realised you were wrong. What about this?

Well, that’s what they thought. They wanted me to admit it. I couldn’t not admit it.

Mr. Lam, you said a director brought you back to Hong Kong…

I don’t know if he was a director – that’s what I heard.

So someone accompanied you to Hong Kong, at least – is that cross border law enforcement?

That’s your interpretation, I don’t know.

…Did he say he was kidnapped in Hong Kong?

I don’t want to say…at the time the situation was being monitored…but everything should have been recorded. I was still in Shenzhen.

Can you tell us how you came back to Hong Kong? [inaudible] 

I said whatever they told me to say.

Has anyone said or implied that if you break the law again that they would bring you back? And now you’re holding a press conference, are you afraid that this will impact your family? And members of the media have photographed a woman outside your home, was that a sex scandal?

Of course that was my woman. That was my woman… but whether it was a sex scandal or not depends on what evidence they have. For myself, no. Or I can tell you, when I was in Shaoguan at 1 in the middle of the night, there were two small cars that pulled up. I don’t have anyone in Shaoguan, no friends. They knocked on my door at one in the morning… I opened the door to see.

One tall, one short. They didn’t say anything. I understood at the time that they were probably looking for business. I told them that they had found the wrong person. I don’t know if…

Actually the two didn’t know Cantonese. One asked me, he didn’t understand, what? And they were blocking the door, not letting me close it. I was surprised. It’s rare that they’re so bold. So I told them again that they had the wrong person. They closed the door and left. This was weird, right?

Do you think it was the authorities?

I don’t know, I can’t say. I just remembered this. Just now when I was here with Albert Ho, he showed me. This thing happened out of the blue, I don’t know whether it has anything to do with it.

How is Gui Minhai doing? He said in the video that he was involved in a car accident some ten years ago and killed someone…

I saw that stuff too, but I don’t know what his situation is.

I want to ask why it took so long for you to come back.

It took so long because they took that long to release me.

When you were required to read the scripts or to sign papers, when you seemed unwilling, did they imply that something would happen to you, or – ?

They didn’t need to imply anything. In that situation, you couldn’t not sign.

The condition for your return was to bring back the records for the book, do you – ?

It was a store of readers’ information.

Did you promise to bring it to them and did they say when you had to return to report to them?

They came yesterday to get the computer. In Hong Kong, someone called Chan was helping them, I heard. I don’t know who he is. In the bookstore, gave it to Lee Bo.

They might have taken the wrong one. Yesterday I went up myself to bring the hard disk back to the hotel. At night I looked again and they had taken everything. It wasn’t the one I used to use. So I told the two people accompanying me that I needed to get the original one I was using. So I went up and grabbed the one I used to use. That means it has our readers’ data on it – whether from the mainland or from other places. But the hard drive… I didn’t give it to them.

At Kowloon Tong, I went out of the station. And last night and tonight and afterwards I didn’t give it to them. Seeing 6000 people on the streets and chanting for us, if I, as a Hong Konger,…I don’t say anything, out of us five I have the lightest burden, I thought I had to come out and disclose everything.

When do you have to go back to see them?

Ho: They are asking if you will go back up?

They originally wanted me to go back today.

Ho: Let him finish, okay?

I answered them.

Ho: No, they asked if you would go back up?

Of course I won’t.

But are you worried that they’ll bring you back up, like Lee Bo?

There’s nothing I can do about that. That depends on the Hong Kong government and whether our safety is guaranteed in HK. This will tell us whether our lives are guaranteed in Hong Kong.

Will you ask the Hong Kong police for help?

I would rather ask Albert Ho. … I don’t know if [Chan] was a director. I heard –

There were mainlanders coming to Hong Kong with you. What was that situation like? Can you elaborate? Where did they bring you?

In Shaoguan, they bought train tickets and then gave me back my ID. Those people split up. They were a little worried that they would be photographed. Whether it was cross-border law enforcement, I don’t know. The process was like that. They split up with me in Hong Kong. They didn’t dare stay with me. I can only contact Lee Bo myself.

How did you get away actually?

Because you from when you returned to Hong Kong until you came to this press conference there was somebody following you, like this morning.

I don’t know I don’t know if there was anybody following me.

But how did you get rid of the two?

They did not dare to appear next to me in Hong Kong.

The Mr Chan you just mentioned, is he the one who took over Causeway Bay Books?

That’s what I’ve heard.

Could you say some more about this?

I am not clear about this. They…I heard Mr. Lee say that [Chan] was going to take over the bookstore, but who was behind this I don’t know.

These few days, didn’t you just say –

(correcting the reporter) These two days –

That you went with him to the bookstore together to get stuff –

I didn’t go up to Causeway Bay Books I only went to Lee Bo’s office.

With him?

No. Mr Chan I have heard – Mr Chan took the computer to Lee Bo and I went to take it at Lee Bo’s office.

I want to ask whether you know where your case is in in the prosecution process? That is when will you go to court?

Can you talk about the legal process in the mainland?

I don’t know about legal process.

Or when you will – or when will the case be judged or sentenced and everything?

No idea. No – they only said that I am on bail and awaiting trial.

I want to ask about closing the case. Did the mainland police ask you to close the case with the Hong Kong police?

Yes. I answered that just now.

Mr Lam, you mentioned that what happened –

Ho: He does not speak English.

Mr Lam I want to clarify whether Lee Bo had taken the bookstore’s hard drive with reader’s information on it or  was it all Mr Chan bringing it up?

And do you completely –

Chan – I heard that Chan took the hard drive to Lee Bo, and I went to Lee Bo’s office to take it.

This all happened in Hong Kong?

Yes.

Before, there were rumours saying that you were arrested because –

I took the wrong one the first time, the second time was OK.

Before, there were rumours saying that you were arrested because there were some books related to [Chinese President] Xi Jinping.

Actually, you were up there for a few months this time, the whole interview process do you think it is related to what you guys published or do you think they just want to catch those who are reading banned books?

Those who read banned books are probably not a big deal. I suspect that they are trying to get information on those who wrote the books because they asked me whether I knew some of the authors.

Which books’ authors did they ask you about?

Yes, and what kind of person wrote them.

So which kinds of books?

Did they say in particularly which book or all books?

Books about Chinese senior official, sources, power struggles, or about sex scandals news.

Can you give some examples?

I am not clear on this.

But they had asked you so did you give [information], actually?

We don’t even know we just sell books.

So you did not know of these information?

We did not know.

So Lee Bo and Gui Minhai did?

Not possible, because a lot of these information, as everybody knows, not reliable.

Do they have information on the authors?

That I am not clear about.

Mr Lam, did you make contact with other colleagues?

The first time it was eating in Shenzhen, because they had arranged it at Kylin Villa.

Why did they arrange for you guys to have a meal?

Did they clarify whether Lee Bo or Gui Minhai had been kidnapped?

No, they did not mention these things. We only talked about daily happenings.

When you were being interviewed, that time on Phoenix?

They were not clear about it and I was “being interviewed”. I was “being interviewed,” not interviewed, “being interviewed.”

So not “being interviewed” together?

No.

What did they use to… did they use that drag things on? You just said that you needed to eat as well – what does that mean?

You have fear. What they wanted to do we don’t know. Personally, I did not know.

I want to ask if you will consider reporting to the police or request personal protection because you just said, are you afraid that the mainland will be angry and will find someone to take you back to the mainland after you held the press conference? What kind of protection will you seek?

I did not think about this at all.

Do you think that the Hong Kong Police cannot protect you?

Seeing the Admiralty incident we know, the tear bombs, the students without any weapons.

So you don’t think the Hong Kong Police is standing on the side of the Hong Kong citizens?

I see that they really don’t.

Do you have anything to say to [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying? Because he said that he had already done a lot regarding this matter. But do you have anything to say?

Regarding this we have nothing to say. what is there to say.

Did you completely not see how the Hong Kong SAR government protected you in this case?

No, no.

In 2012 your bookstore was bought by Mighty Current…

2013, no, 2014.

And up to now, do you think that you are being implicated by Mighty Current because of their publication business and you are selling books. Do you think that way?

We are in the same boat. What happens to them may happen to us. What happens to us may also happen to anybody.

Mr. Lam do you know about Lee Bo or Lui Por’s situation right now and are you afraid of holding this press conference and revealing the situation that it will be…

I am afraid of the situation of those colleagues who are staying [in the mainland] or will have to go to the mainland in the future. I hope that the Chinese government will treat them kindly.

Your family in Hong Kong, did they get harassed or investigated?

As far as I know, no.

Do you think that all five [booksellers] are innocent?

I am not sure about Gui Minhai. If it is simply about mailing or publishing what they think is banned books, then from the perspective of Hongkongers, there is no crime.

Did Gui write some books?

I am not very clear about this.

Can you tell us about the hard drive? The hard drives containing the mainland readers’ information. Did Lee Bo take the hard drive?

He copied it. As I know he copied.

But not the hard drive?

The hard drive stayed at the bookstore –

So has it been taken into the mainland or not?

No.

So it is still in your hands?

Yes, I am keeping it –

So I want to ask – the central government…

I don’t want to give a bad impression to mainland Chinese people, that I would give such half copy [evidence] to the Chinese government, I did not want [them to think] that.

Is it true that without the hard copy there would not be enough evidence to… [interrupted by Lam]?

I do not know that. I do not understand law.

Does the central government have information about your clients?

Pardon?

Does the central government now have information about the people who you sent books to?

Yes, because Lee Bo copied the files for them. They showed the files to me in Ningbo, asked me to confirm them.

How many people were in the files?

I estimated it must have been about 500 to 600 people. As for books, they counted, there were more than 4000.

Were those information about mainland readers or Hong Kong readers?

Both. But majority were mainland readers.

Did they tell you they were going to find these people?

No idea.

Mr Lam what is your plan to ensure your own safety. You said you don’t trust the police.

[Lam turns to Ho] Ho: I think today Mr Lam has told us his situation in this press conference. If anything happens to him, it won’t be that he took a shampoo boat back to the mainland. (A shampoo boat is a boat running illegally between Guangdong and Hong Kong on which passengers can solicit prostitutes. This is a reference to lawmaker Ng Leung-sing’s earlier comment that the five booksellers were caught on such boats.) You would know what happened to him.

Ho: I believe we are an open society. Media workers, you have the freedom and obligation to cover many important events comprehensively. I hope, I believe that your attention is the best protection for Mr Lam, and me also.

Has anyone told you to admit that everything was Gui’s fault?

What they asked me to admit was that I mailed the books. I did mail the books.

After this incident, do you have anything to say to the Hong Kong people?

Er… I hope Hongkongers can say no to hegemony.

But do you think we can still say no under the current circumstances?

I can, why can’t you?

Would you continue working in the publishing industry?

It’s possible I may.

Mr Lam will you seek political refuge elsewhere?

I am a Hongkonger, born and raised here. I don’t need to leave Hong Kong.

Do you have regrets about all this, about sending books to mainland?

Why regret? Sending books is legal in Hong Kong. If they think I broke the law then [approach me] through legal means. [They] shouldn’t have detained me. This I cannot accept. Hong Kong is a society ruled by law.

Mr Lam do you have your identification papers? You said they were taken away from you.

They gave them back to me when they let me go. They gave me back my HKID card. The home return permit I didn’t want.

Does your family know you were going to hold this press conference?

I called my wife and my sister just now.

Do you worry about their safety?

They should be fine. I am not that worried.

There has been a rumour that the authorities in mainland arranged for you to work in a library. Could you tell us about that?

The library was just a place for me to spend my time.

Where was it?

It was the Shaoguan Library.

Albert, now you have evidence about what really happened in this case, what are you going to do to pursue justice?

Ho: First of all, I think there’s a blatant non-compliance on the part of the mainland authority in failing to provide information about Hong Kong citizens being put under compulsory criminal measures in China, OK? With all particulars as soon as reasonably recognised. In fact he has been confined for some many months before information that he was under compulsory measure was notified to the Hong Kong government.

Ho: And in fact a lot of material information was missing, such as the reason for the compulsory criminal measure, place where the measure was put in place and also the reason, ok? So I think the Hong Kong government should follow up and ask for a full account as to why there was such a blatant non-compliance.

Ho: And secondly, we are of course still very concerned about Mr Lee Bo, who obviously had been kidnaped and forced to go to the border to the mainland. This matter is not closed and we got to pursue further until a satisfactory explanation is given to us.

Ho: Thirdly about his personal safety. I don’t think from what he told us he committed any offence on the mainland. All the books were mailed out from Hong Kong. OK? All the books were published in Hong Kong. And within the territory of Hong Kong all these acts are lawful. So there’s no reason he should be detained, or threatened to be prosecuted for certain acts committed in Hong Kong, which are perfectly lawful.

Ho: I think again the mainland government ought to explain. I think everybody, every hong kong citizen, including the media should keep an eye on I and Mr Lam, make sure he won’t suffer the same situation, the same experience as Mr Lee Bo had painfully suffered a few months ago.

Ho: So I think his safety should be protected by all Hong Kong people. All of us should be committed to keeping a close watch and concern for his family. One by one… Please listen to me and follow the rules.

Mr Lam, Lee Bo has told the media that he voluntarily returned to the mainland. But you just said he was taken away forcefully. How did you know that?

I talked to him about this. In private he admitted to have been kidnapped.

When did he tell you and under what circumstances?

I didn’t ask him when it happened. I asked him this morning.

So you asked him this morning?

He didn’t tell me directly.

Does he know you were going to hold a press conference?

He didn’t know.

What do you mean he didn’t tell you directly? How did he tell you?

He told it in passing that he was taken up there from Hong Kong.

Illegally taken away?

I don’t know if it was legal.

You said you struggled for two days thinking whether to tell your story. What was your struggle like? Did the 6000 protesters give you hope and courage? I also want to ask, what’s your plan to protect yourself now?

Let’s see if the Hong Kong government can protect me. I really haven’t slept in the past two days watching videos; they touched me a lot. I really think Hong Kong people should come out. Because this is not just my own business, it’s all of your business.

Did Lee Bo say specifically he was taken away by mainland officers?

No he did not.

How did you ask him and how did he answer?

He told it in passing when he was talking about something else, he didn’t specify.

So he was taken away against his will?

Of course.

Do you believe it was mainland police [that took him away]?

No idea.

I apologise if you already answered this in Cantonese, but when you and your colleagues first went missing, the loudest concern in Hong Kong was that it was an unprecedented violation of One Country, Two Systems, Do you agree with this interpretation and if so, what do you think this means for Hong Kong’s freedoms?

Ho, translating for Lam: I agree. Their behaviour – taking away five people secretly, it’s obviously [a violation of One Country, Two Systems. And their charge for us – illegal publishing. We published and ran our business in Hong Kong without breaking any law, there shouldn’t be any problem. I think they just confined us like this, it’s a violation of One Country, Two Systems.

Sorry can you summarise what he said?

Ho: He said that it was a blatant violation of One Country, Two Systems because the acts of mailing books because the act itself is not unlawful OK?

Ho: So um, he said it would pose a threat to the Hong Kong people that such acts are taken as criminal acts in mainland China.

Did Lee Bo tell you anything about his plan for the future or about the other colleagues’ situation today?

No. He wishes this would end soon.

Did he say anything about what to do with the bookstore?

He said the bookstore would be taken over, by that Mr Chan. And he said the lease would be extended but whether the money is from Mr Chan, this I don’t know.

Did Lee Bo tell you why he still wants to go back to the mainland, and if he is free right now?

They asked him to go back after managing some company affairs here. That’s what I heard.

Have you watched his TV interview? He said he smuggled himself up there. Just now you said you think he was spirited away. Why did he say that on TV?

You are asking me the same question as the one about why I admitted guilt on TV. It’s the same thing, we were coerced.

Some people say that four of the five missing booksellers have returned to Hong Kong to cancel their missing persons reports so there is no need to investigate further, what do you think of this?

This incident obviously represents a breach of Hong Kong’s human rights.

Maybe those people said that because they thought you wouldn’t speak out.

Yeah maybe they think they have nothing to fear.

Did you receive any warning or any signs before this happened?

Personally I did not.

Did you sign any papers to admit guilt in China?

When they questioned me…yes I did sign such papers.

Did you sign anything else?

Even if they asked you to sign a slavery contract you had to under those circumstances.

But did you sign?

Yes.

What else did you sign?

I don’t know.

Did they say or imply that if you make the same offence again they would arrest you again?

I had a feeling they would.

So from their conversations with you, you sensed that…

Yes.

Did they ask you not to hold press conferences? What did they say?

Yes, a Mr. Shi who questioned me told me [not to hold press conferences.]

What did he say exactly? How did he say it?

He told me if police ask me if I need protection I should say no. If they ask if I feel safe I should say yes.

What about interviews?

Of course no interviews.

Reporter, asking Ho: As lawmakers how would you follow up this case?

Ho: As I said before, the Lee Bo incident, and the whole Causeway Bay Books incident has shocked Hongkongers and made them angry, infuriated. I had never heard anyone was emigrating out of fear for their safety before. After the Lee Bo incident many said they had no choice but to emigrate.

Ho: I also heard many people said their families told them not to take part in politics, because the mainland government is capable of anything: they don’t keep their words, they have no respect for the law, they can use their power to crush anything. So many people are scared. But as Mr Lam said before, 6,000 people came out to speak out for the bookstore. I believe they [the booksellers] must have been touched by this. But we know, those of us who spoke out, we were doing this for ourselves, not just for them.

Ho: Most of us are not leaving Hong Kong. Where can you go? Hong Kong is our home. I myself won’t. So we need to, like Lam said, have the courage to say no to hegemony, to pursue the truth and protect each other.

Ho: This Lee Bo incident I think Beijing knows Hongkongers are very unhappy. There is also a lot of opposition internationally. Gui Minhai’s daughter testifying in the US also attracted a lot of attention around the world. Many people are asking if One Country, Two Systems has crumbled, if they can still come to Hong Kong to invest. These questions are being asked overseas.

Ho: So if the Beijing government does not want Hong Kong, as an international financial centre, to fail, does not want Hong Kong, as an international metropolis, to see its reputation go under overnight, it needs to immediately promise to stop doing this.

Ho: I told Lam today. There’s no need to be too scared, because if he is arrested, Hong Kong people won’t accept it. If he suddenly goes missing again, there won’t be another explanation. If anything happens, there is no other explanation.

Can you describe what you went through in those months of detention. Were you scared at the beginning? Were you angry? What did you do during those days? How did you spend your time? How has it impact you?

At the time of course I was scared, very scared and lost, felt lonely and helpless. Didn’t know what they were going to do to me – they weren’t going by the law. I didn’t know if I would be tried. [long silence] I couldn’t believe this had happened to me.

It did not feel real. I thought I was in an absurd place. I even hoped what was happening was a dream, not reality.

As a Hong Kong citizen I am a free person. I had never broken the law in Hong Kong. For, as I see it, no reason at all, they just jailed me for five months, I couldn’t take a walk, couldn’t read the news, couldn’t [inaudible]. And the environment I was put in, everything was babyproofed, all desks and chairs were wrapped in soft padding.

The water tap was wrapped in plastic paper. What were they afraid of? They were afraid that people would kill themselves after going crazy because of the long confinement.

It was really obvious. They wanted to keep you there until you go crazy. Such measures prove that in the past people had [killed themselves]. For example the toothbrush they give you, it was a small one but it was tied to a string. Every time you brush your teeth, a guard is holding that string. You have to return the toothbrush to him after you finish brushing your teeth. Because they are afraid you would kill yourself with that. Did you know this? No?

For example when they give you a nail clipper, the nail clipper is also tied to a string; they are afraid you would swallow that to kill yourself. Their suicide proof measures were done very well. But the more I thought about it the more I was afraid. Why would anyone kill themselves? Unless they have been confined for so long they go crazy. Only insane people would do this. Then [a person] would [commit suicide]. They’re very experienced, I could see this.

So during that period you have not had any contact with the outside world?

No, no news at all.

Did they do anything to you that scared you?

Psychological torture.

How? Did they say anything to you?

During the later period, there were two who were sent from Beijing. I don’t know what their identities were, they said I was under control.

Under control?

The government will not show mercy when it comes to people like us. They scolded us so much it put me in a state of confusion. It made me really confused. Selling books can also be put under control.

The place where you were held captive, was there anyone nearby, what was the inside of the place like?

There were about 12 people, they were split into two teams and would watch over me 24 hours a day.

Ho: Were there any other prisoners?

In the other room, according to my knowledge, there were, but I don’t know what people were being held in it, because we were never allowed out of our rooms.

Were there any windows? Could you see what is outside of the window?

[Outside] the window was something like a detention house, and there were similar rooms.

What about the place you were located at?

Mine was just one of them. I counted about 20 windows in the building, so about 20 rooms. So if they were holding people prisoner – I could see washing basins, and towel, toothbrushes and toothpastes inside the washing basin. Sometimes they would ask me to go out for an interrogation – I don’t know where to – and they would blindfold me, and take me out. And out of the corner of my eye, in the rooms next door, I could see that there were washing basins and towels, so evidently they were keeping people captive in there. Maybe it’s the “legal procedures” they believe in… and they’ve demonstrated that.

What kind of place were you being held in?

A room.

What kind of building?

Was it a detention house?

I don’t know if it was a detention house. I have no idea.

What organisation? What unit?

There was no information at all.

You mentioned that you were interrogated. How many times were you interrogated? You’ve mentioned that people were sent from Beijing to question you and scold you. Do you know what their identities were?

I don’t know. I don’t even know what their surnames were. They don’t tell you.

What did they say, to make you feel terrible?

They think that publishing these books was [an act of] slandering their leader, that it hurt his reputation. They think it’s an act of spreading rumours to create trouble.

Do you feel like they were brainwashing you?

They weren’t brainwashing me, they were just scolding me. I should succumb to authoritarian rule.

I want to ask you about your interrogation. Where did it happen?

Where I slept. There was a table, there’s a file and there’s a computer. And then there was a period when they would produce a document of the answers I gave and the process of the interrogation, and they would make a record, and ask me to sign it, put my thumbprint on it and confirm.

Like Lee Bo, with the charges laid and and assisting investigation.

Lee Bo? I don’t know anything about this.

But you said, the documents they asked you to sign, the affirmations and testimony, does it match up with what you have told them?

They said I was running a business illegally. So even if I didn’t admit to that, I still have to sign.

Any impression of how many times you underwent an interrogation?

In terms of leaving the room, maybe two times, but in the room I think maybe 20 to 30 times.

So every week?

Sometimes less frequently, sometimes three to four times a week, sometimes not even once over the span of two weeks.

So they inform you of [when] the process [takes place]?

They inform me, interrogations are conducted, they ask me questions about what happened. Then I answer.

How long was each questioning?

Each time, half an hour to 45 minutes. Sometimes longer, maybe longer than an hour.

What if you didn’t answer or refused to…

I had to cooperate, there was no other way. I don’t know what consequences there were if I didn’t answer them. I was in a state of fear.

So you trust them?

There’s no other way except to trust them.

Did you go to the public security bureau at any point or was it all in the room?

Yes.

Have you asked to contact your family or see a lawyer during the process?

They requested me not to speak to a lawyer or my family. The first day, they made me promise and sign a document.

So you didn’t dare bring it up again [while you were detained]?

There was no point in bringing it up. Because according to the declaration I signed – there was no point mentioning it again, I gave up [the right to do so anyway].

About the bookstore, if Mr Chan had taken it over, why has he not shown up?

I suggest you ask him.

About the “Central Special Unit,” during the whole process they were in charge? You said a department head came along with you what department it was?

I do not know. What I know is the person taking my statement, there was someone who said he was the “Central Special Unit.” When I was held by the Shenzhen immigration, when I was being questioned that night, he was [from] the “Central Special Unit”. And this guy, back in 2013 when I was crossing the immigration *carrying books* and I was caught by him, this young person was the one in charge of making a written statement. Because he recognised me and I recognised him – in 2013 when I was carrying books across the border, he was in charge of making a record. I think his surname was Lee.

Was he a part of the public security, his identity, when he was making a written record?

Do you mean 2013? I think he was from the National Security Bureau – just from what I remember.

You said department head – so should be from the “Central Special Unit”?

He should be, from the natural understanding of things, but whether the department head, I don’t… It’s what I heard from Lee Bo.

After so many questionings, during the process apart from asking you to hand over the information, what were the questions about?

They mostly want to know who wrote the books that were being published. They gave me a list of author’s names and asked me if I knew them.

They wanted to know the identities?

They wanted me to provide information in detail.

He asked you to disclose their identities?

He demanded that I disclose in detail. For example there was one author I recognised called Liu Lu. I recognised him because there was a book published. I skimmed through it… it was a book about the human rights situation. Of course I answered directly, but I don’t know much about Liu Lu.

Mr. Lam, you’ve been detained for eight months… how is your physical and mental state? Have you lost weight?

I used to work 13 hours a day, but when they detained me I didn’t need to work. So my physical health is actually better than before. But I’ve faced great mental stress.

How great?

I didn’t know how they would deal with me… they didn’t go through legal means. What evidence was there to prove that I violated Chinese law? I wasn’t breaking the law in Hong Kong. Why would I have broken the law once I crossed the border?

How has this incident changed your opinion of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments?

All I can say is that One Country, Two Systems exists only in name. Because if they can kidnap Lee Bo, then they are enforcing law extraterritorially. But you have to ask Lee Bo to know more about this.

Mr. Lam, you mentioned that you distrust the Hong Kong government.

You have not asked the police to protect you.

Have you considered moving abroad? Or will you stay in Hong Kong?

I am born and bred here. I’ve seen Hong Kong grow since the days when we had nothing. Some families had no telephones or televisions. Hong Kong is really my home – our home. I have no plans to leave Hong Kong.

Over these few months, apart from the “Central Special Unit”, have any other people disclosed the identities of government departments or agencies that they work for to you?

They revealed to me they were from the “Central Special Unit.” But whether they were from the Ministry of State Security or the Public Service Bureau… I didn’t know.

They didn’t tell you during the interrogations?

I asked but they wouldn’t answer. They just demanded I sign papers.

Mr. Lam, your family members have been speaking to the newspapers and television about your situation. Have you had the chance to speak to them about what to do next – and how they can help you more?

No I haven’t discussed with them yet. I contacted Albert Ho before I called them, so no.

So you haven’t seen your family yet?

I ate dinner at my sister’s last night and saw my wife. I ate dinner with my sister the night before as well. So I’ve seen my family twice.

And your son?

They have their own lives…but we’ve spoken on the phone.

Have you seen Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por?

I wasn’t allowed to. I’ve only seen Lee Bo.

You weren’t allowed to see them after you returned to Hong Kong?

As far as I know, I wasn’t allowed.

What do you think would be the effect on Hong Kong’s freedoms, if you hadn’t come out to speak today?

It’s for the best that I spoke out…It shows that there are still people who speak out in Hong Kong. If I didn’t speak out, Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech and press would suffer suppression in silence. This is something I don’t want.

You’ve returned to Hong Kong for two days. Have you spoken to Lee Bo or Cheung Chi-ping?

I spoke to Lee Bo when I gave him the computer.

Lui Por?

Lee [Bo]. Lee Bo is one of the shareholders of [Mighty Current]. As for Lui Por, as far as I know, he’s currently doing something somewhere else.

In mainland China?

No, in Hong Kong, from what I’ve heard.

You said you heard a woman’s voice outside your residence just now. Was that your wife?

I didn’t hear clearly, I’m not sure.

Did you know what she was talking about?

I’m not sure.

Could you describe the people who interrogated you? Were they in uniform?

No uniform.

Were they dressed nicely, or…?

One of them was dressed nicely. One surnamed Shi treated me very well. I want to say that I’m grateful. But I want to call on the Chinese government to treat him nicely. Because this incident could implicate him. And I have a girlfriend in mainland China. I also hoped that she will be treated nicely.

How did you do what you did [over these past two days] in Hong Kong?

Like when you [turned back] at Kowloon Tong station…

I don’t know if anyone followed me. I just exited the station gates. I just thought about the questions I’ve been contemplating over the last two nights.

Ho: I believe that [the authorities did this to avoid us accusing them of extraterritorial law enforcement. Some people might have been watching [over Lam] but they can say they are not enforcing law. I think they are doing this deliberately. Now that [Lam] is in Hong Kong, there appears to be no interference with what he says or does, for the time being. That’s the truth, I have to say.

Mr. Lam, what are your plans for the future? Whether related to this incident or yourself, personally.

I hope that Hong Kong will become better. I hope everyone in Hong Kong can make their voices heard.

Regarding your title, you are the… head of the Causeway Bay Bookstore?

Yes.

Ho: Thank you everyone. Let’s give him some rest.

Mr Lam, thank you.

Thank you all.

Transcribed by Karen Cheung, Elson Tong, Chantal Yuen and Catherine Lai.

Full, complete transcript of returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee's press conference and Q&A