Hong Kong police yesterday offered personal protection to Lam Wing-kee, while maintaining that there is a lack of evidence that the bookseller was in danger after returning home from mainland custody.
Until their U-turn, a day after mainland officials threatened the wanted bookseller with escalated action for skipping bail, police had repeatedly advised Lam to dial 999 if he needed their help.
The protection offer came as the justice and security ministers dismissed concerns about pressure to send Lam back after talks with mainland public security chiefs in Beijing.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok stressed that withouth an extradition agreement, it was legally impossible for Hong Kong to hand over a resident.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung confirmed the Hong Kong police investigation into the bookseller case would continue.
In response to Beijing authorities showing Hong Kong officials an edited 16-minute video featuring Lam’s confession to breaking mainland law by doing illegal business in banned publications, the bookseller urged them to “show all unabridged videos throughout my [eight-month] detention”.
The Bar Association weighed in yesterday, suggesting the city’s government seek Beijing’s clarification on how to define offences such as selling banned books and doing illegal business.
Lam, co-founder of Causeway Bay Books, cited new threats he faced in Hong Kong. He claimed that several people on motorbikes tried to tail him, and challenged police suggestions he was probably being followed by journalists.
Lam also complained of being followed closely by four men in Lai King late last month.
But acting police chief Wong Chi-hung was dismissive of Lam’s claims, saying his account was not in line with their investigation or assessment.
In a press release last night, police said they decided to offer the bookseller protection “in view of his worries”. However, they also insisted there was “no evidence to suggest Lam’s personal safety is at risk at this stage”.
The Public Security Bureau in Ningbo – which held Lam for five months until he was detained elsewhere from March – has threatened to step up criminal measures against him if he does not return, as he is still a wanted man. But Lai clarified yesterday that such measures had no legal standing in Hong Kong.
The security minister added that no one from the mainland side had requested Lam’s return during official talks in Beijing.
“This aspect was absolutely not touched upon,” Lai said. “Everyone certainly knows there is no fugitive transfer agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland.”
Yuen, who said he did not know Lam’s video would be screened in Beijing, said the footage showed the need for police to continue looking for the truth.
In a radio interview, Lam criticised the security minister for failing to seek answers from Beijing on how his business associate Lee Po had vanished in Hong Kong and resurfaced on the mainland.