Media worker detained for eight months, released to Hong Kong

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses concern following the revelation that Lam Wing Kee, one of the five Hong Kong Causeway Bay bookstore employees detained in 2015, was detained by the Central Task Force in Mainland China. The IFJ demands an immediate explanation from the President of China, Xi Jinping and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun Ying, regarding the detention of the five media workers.

On June 14, Lam Wing Kee was granted permission to travel back to Hong Kong following eight months detention in Ningbo, Zhejiang in Mainland China. Following his return, on June 16, Lam spoke out, revealing that he was detained in a tiny cell by the Central Task Force and was under constant surveillance. Lam said that he was interrogated by officers from the taskforce on at least 30 separate occasions, during which he was repeatedly asked for the identity of buyers of banned books, identities of authors of banned books, and why he cooperated with Gui Minhai, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Bookstores who disappeared in October 2015. Lam also said that he was released and allowed to return to Hong Kong under one condition, that the officers, “demanded (me) bring them my computer hard disc which contained all the data of banned book buyers as evidence on June 16”.

Lam said that he refused to meet the condition of his release and betray the buyers, although he believed that the authorities had already got a copy of the list of buyers from Lee Bo, another Causeway Bay employee who was detained in 2015 but released in March 2016. Lam said that Lee Bo had personally told him that he was abducted by unknown people at the end of December 2015, and that during his televised confession in January 2016, he had told authorities that he was willing to return to the Mainland should he be released from detention and allowed to return to Hong Kong.

Lam, who also made a televised confession in March 2016, explained: “I was forced to make a televised confession by Phoenix Television in March. I was instructed to repeat the prepared script and if I did not follow it strictly, they would ask for a retake. I and Lee Bo and the other two sat together in of the news bulletins in the Mainland, which was orchestrated by the authorities.” Lam went on to explain that he had no choice under the circumstances. “I felt helpless, fearful and absurd because I never thought this kind of thing could happen to me while I had not violated any laws. I mailed books to Mainland buyers from Hong Kong which is a legal act in Hong Kong,” Lam added.

In his detailed account of what happened during his detention, Lam also revealed that he was forced to sign two statements when he was arrested in Shenzhen on his first day. The statements said that Lam gave up his right to retain any legal representative or visits by his family members. After the first day of detention, he was escorted to Ningbo, Zhejiang without any clear reason. When he arrived, he was told that he had breached Mainland law which forbad any illegal business operating in the Mainland. Lam contests these accusations. 

Lam said: “I don’t know what will happen to me in the future after revealing these truths. I, however, believe we have to say no to the totalitarian regime, otherwise we will lose our freedom of thought. One country, two systems is actually jeopardized in incidents such as mine. We never felt like Leung Chun Ying or the Hong Kong government had provided any kind of protection to us.”

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “We strongly support the release of Lam and his return to Hong Kong, however the conditions of his release and demands on him to name the buyers of the banned books is attack on freedom of expression and the right to privacy. This ordeal for the Causeway Bay Bookstore employees is illustrative of the Chinese government’s attempts to silence critics and control freedom of expression across China. Lam has proved through his detention that media workers must defend their rights,”

The IFJ urge Leung Chun Ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong and Carrie Lam, Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong to explain what protection they had offered to the five detained media workers over the past eight months.

We also believe Raymond Tam, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, must provide a detailed explanation about the entire cooperating process between Hong Kong and Mainland China.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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