Top officials of the Hong Kong government will fly to Beijing on Tuesday to discuss a communication mechanism between the city and mainland, following the return of the bookseller Lam Wing-kee.
The central government in Beijing agreed to begin talks last week to review the decade-old mechanism, under which the Hong Kong authorities should be notified by their Guangdong Province counterparts within 14 days when a Hongkonger is detained on the mainland, and vice versa. But the Hong Kong government only received notification months after Lam’s detention.
The officials in the group include the Secretary for Justice, the Secretary for Security, the Director of Immigration, the acting Police Commissioner and the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. They will fly back on Tuesday night.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said they will meet with the mainland’s Public Security Bureau and the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, “to make preliminary discussions to further improve the notification mechanism.”
Leung said the officials will hear briefings from the mainland authorities on the case of Lam Wing-kee, and the case of a robbery and murder suspect who escaped to the mainland in March and was arrested.
“After the implementation of the notification mechanism for some ten years, there is a need for full and detailed review,” Leung said. “At this stage, we do not rule out any particular aspect to be discussed during the review.”
Leung added that the maximum time allowed for mainland authorities to notify Hong Kong would be one of the aspects.
Lam Wing-kee said after his return to Hong Kong that he was kidnapped from Shenzhen to Ningbo last October by a Chinese special unit, and was kept in solitary confinement until he was transferred to Shaoguan to work at a library.
But the Guangdong police only confirmed to Hong Kong in February that he was under criminal compulsory measures and being investigated for alleged illegal activities on the mainland, without giving details such as his whereabouts.
“I personally have never heard of the Central Special Case Unit,” Leung said, without saying whether it will be discussed.
Lam, the founder and later manager of Causeway Bay Books, was one of the five booksellers who went missing one by one. His colleague Lee Bo went missing from Hong Kong last December, sparking concerns of cross-border kidnapping.
The booksellers then reappeared on mainland television “confessing” to illegally sending books banned in China across the border.
The bookstore’s Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, is still detained on the mainland in Ningbo, according to Lam.