A slow-motion tragedy is occurring in Hong Kong, where China is squeezing the freedoms it promised to allow the city for 50 years. The latest evidence came Thursday as a bookseller bravely described eight months under the screws of China’s security services.
Back in Hong Kong, Lam Wing Kee said 11 men seized him on Oct. 24 as he tried to visit his girlfriend in Shenzhen. He was blindfolded and dispatched on a 13-hour train trip to Ningbo, where he was confined to a small room under 24-hour watch without access to a phone or lawyer. In some 30 interrogations police demanded details on who writes and reads the gossipy books, published by Mr. Lam’s employer Mighty Current Media, that focus on elite Chinese politics and that China bans.
In February Mr. Lam and colleagues who were snatched by China confessed to smuggling books into China, saying they were willing to be punished for “mistakes.” “It was a show, and I accepted it,” Mr. Lam said of the staged confession. “They gave me the script. I had to follow the script. If I did not follow it strictly, they would ask for a retake.”
Also coerced, said Mr. Lam, was his colleague Lee Bo’s claim that he wasn’t abducted off the streets of Hong Kong but had traveled to China on his own. Mr. Lee and two others also returned to Hong Kong, but they stayed briefly, kept quiet and returned to the mainland, presumably under pressure. Mr. Lam was also supposed to stay mum but he decided to speak up because he doesn’t have family at risk in China. “If I as the person with the lightest burden do not speak out, then no one will,” he said.
Mr. Lam could be snatched again, or killed by thugs, so we’ll see if Hong Kong officials defend their autonomy and rule of law by protecting him.