Democratic Party member Howard Lam told reporters today that he had been kidnapped by Chinese agents in Mong Kok who beat him, stapled crosses into his legs, and dumped him on a beach in Sai Kung roughly eight hours later.
Lam, a prominent political activist, told reporters that he believed the attack had something to do with his intention to send a signed picture of Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was a fan of the Spanish footballer.
At a press conference this morning, Lam said he had received a call from a mainland Chinese acquaintance with purported ties to Chinese national security three days ago, who warned him not to send the gift to Liu, a plan which Lam had written about on his Facebook page. The acquaintance said there would be “consequences” to Lam’s actions, but hung up before specifying what those would be.
Lam told reporters that he was shopping on Portland Street in Yau Ma Tei at about 4pm yesterday when he was accosted by two Putonghua-speaking men, who forced him into a van, punched him, and confiscated his phone. Someone on board the car, Lam said, then made him smell a chemical which knocked him out.
Some time later, Lam says he was hit with a hard object and woke up to find that he’d been stripped to his underwear, blindfolded, and tied up. One of the men reportedly asked Lam if he knew Liu Xia, and why he was being “meddlesome”. “He said I didn’t know how to love the country,” the activist said.
His interrogator, Lam recalled, then brought up his religion. “I clearly remember him saying, is ‘Are you a Christian? Do you know how to love the country and the religion?’” Lam said the man continuously punched him in the stomach during the ordeal, then said, “You’re a Christian, let me give you some crosses,” before stapling crosses into Lam’s thighs.
Shortly afterward, Lam says the men made him smell the same chemical they used to knock him out. He woke up fully dressed on a “remote” beach, “not knowing if [he] was in China or Hong Kong”, with all of his personal possessions at about 1am today. Lam said he made his way onto a road, where he hailed a taxi and, upon seeing road signs, learned that he was in Sai Kung.
The Democratic Party member said he had initially been “too tired” to call the police when he finally got home, but made sure to take pictures of his injuries and contact fellow party members. However, he agreed to file a police report with the help of his colleagues after holding his press conference.
When questioned by reporters about whether the attack could be linked to any personal issues, Lam said, “I have never owned any credit card debt, I have no relationship to triads – the biggest groups I belong to are the church and the Democratic Party.”
From late 2015 to early 2016, five men associated with a Hong Kong bookstore went missing and later “confessed” on Chinese state television that they had been distributing banned books on the mainland. The incident caused outrage both in Hong Kong and internationally, especially as one man, Lee Bo, had reportedly been abducted from Hong Kong by Chinese authorities — who have no jurisdiction on Hong Kong soil. Fears of increasing Chinese control have been stoked yet again recently, after the Hong Kong government announced its plans to lease portions of the local Express Rail terminus to China, allowing Chinese laws to be enforced in West Kowloon.