Hong Kong democracy activist in custody, police search home after ‘false’ kidnap claim

Hong Kong democracy activist in custody, police search home after ‘false’ kidnap claim

Investigations show Howard Lam left Mong Kok safely via public transport and was not pushed into car as alleged, department spokesman says


CCTV footage showing Howard Lam walking in Yau Ma Tei alone last Thursday.
Photo: FactWire

Investigations have revealed significant discrepancies between a Hong Kong democrat’s account of his alleged abduction and his actual activities on the day, a department spokesman said hours after the activist was arrested for misleading police with claims that he had been kidnapped in broad daylight and tortured by mainland Chinese agents.

At a press briefing early Tuesday morning, superintendent Cheng Lai-ki of the Kowloon West regional crime unit said police believed Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin had given officers false information.

She disclosed that Lam had left Mong Kok alone safely by public transport on the day in question. Police have yet to see where he might have gone after leaving the area.

“Our information did not show that he was pushed into a car as he claimed ... and his whereabouts were not like what he has said. We believe his information was false,” Cheng said.

Howard Lam said he would stop talking about his ordeal after giving several previously arranged interviews.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

She said looking into the motives for Lam’s fabrications would be one of the directions taken by the investigation.

The injuries on his thighs, which Lam had shown reporters as evidence of abuse by his captors, would be examined by forensic experts.

Lam was picked up by officers from the West Kowloon regional crime unit on Tuesday at about 12.30am near his mother’s home in Tai Kok Tsui and detained at Mong Kok police station.

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Investigators also seized computers, handsets and a pair of sunglasses from his home in Ma On Shan.

Cheng said making a false report of false imprisonment was a serious offence.

Lam was transferred to Hung Hom Police Station after the home search.

CCTV footage showed Lam leaving Portland Street at around 5pm.
Photo: FactWire

Serious doubts about Lam’s story were earlier raised by FactWire news agency, which published a report on Monday night directly contradicting his version of events.

FactWire cited multiple video clips taken by CCTV cameras from Yau Ma Tei to discredit Lam’s claim that he was abducted and drugged by Putonghua-speaking men on Thursday at around 4pm after he bought a soccer shirt from a shop and was on his way to the MTR station on Pitt Street.

Lam claimed he was forced into a van on Portland Street and taken to a building in an unknown location where he was tortured by his abductors who punched staples into his legs, which he later showed the media and had removed surgically in a hospital.

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He said he found himself dumped at a beach in Sai Kung between 1 and 2am, from where he took a taxi home. He held a press conference, backed by his party, to tell his story at 11am, before reporting the case to police.

FactWire reported that it had collected and put together nine pieces of footage to reconstruct the incident. They showed the activist leaving Portland Street at around 5pm.

“Alone and unscathed, Lam put on a cap, surgical mask and sunglasses before walking back towards Hamilton Street and then towards Nathan Road. No suspicious persons mentioned by Lam were seen during the three-minute walk,” the agency reported.

“Lam appeared to be alone the whole time. A review of CCTV footage also found no suspicious persons or the alleged kidnappers.”

FactWire also contacted Lam at his Ma On Shan home, where he first refused to comment, but was later persuaded to watch the footage and respond.

The news agency put together nine pieces of footage to reconstruct the incident.
Photo: FactWire

The Democrat denied he was the masked man in the footage, saying: “It is horrible. I don’t know whether someone wanted to do something behind my back ... people in my attire that day can be found anywhere. If someone wants to put me into trouble, they could have arranged a body double.”

Earlier on Monday, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a former pro-democracy legislator, now on the Executive Council which advises Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said that if Lam had indeed been kidnapped, it would not be a case of mainland agents enforcing mainland law in Hong Kong, but mainland agents committing a crime in the city.

“Such events are very serious and directly threaten the existence and credibility of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” Tong said. “Both mainland and Hong Kong governments should take it seriously and investigate thoroughly, not laugh it off.”

It also reported that no suspicious persons were seen with Lam.
Photo: FactWire

At the same time, Tong said he was “very confused” as to why anyone would target Lam just because he intended to send a signed postcard from Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, widow of the late mainland dissident, Liu Xiaobo. This was the reason Lam gave for the alleged abduction.

Tong noted that nobody even knew where Liu Xia was.

“I hope police find out what happened as soon as possible to give Hong Kong people and the world an explanation,” he said.

Lam accused police of giving the public the impression he had been uncooperative during their investigation. He said he had told police he could not attend a 4.30pm meeting on Sunday to give a statement as he was suffering from a headache and fatigue.

Officers leaked this information to the media via anonymous sources and asked them to call the activist to pursue it, Lam claimed.

“I was shocked that police would reveal the information to reporters,” Lam said. “I’m very curious as to why they have to keep leaking information.”


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