New York Times: China Says Hong Kong Bookseller Must Return or Face Parole Violation Penalties

The New York Times
By Austin Ramzy
July 5, 2016

■ China Says Hong Kong Bookseller Must Return or Face Parole Violation Penalties

Beijing — The police in mainland China say that a Hong Kong bookseller who went public about his monthslong detention there must return to the city of Ningbo or face penalties for violating parole, Hong Kong news outlets reported on Tuesday.

The bookseller, Lam Wing-kee, was one of five men connected with a Hong Kong bookstore and a publishing house, Mighty Current Media, whose disappearances last year aroused concern about the potential erosion of the rule of law in Hong Kong. The men later appeared in custody in mainland China and were shown on video confessing to various crimes, including the sale of rumor-filled books on Chinese politics.

Such books are banned in mainland China, but they are permitted in Hong Kong, which has broad protections for press freedom. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but under an agreement between China and Britain, the city is entitled to maintain its own legal and economic structures for 50 years under the model of “one country, two systems.”

Although three other booksellers connected with Mighty Current Media revealed little about their detentions after they were released this year, Mr. Lam spoke in detail about being taken into custody at Hong Kong’s border with the mainland and spending months in solitary confinement. He also told a news conference how the mainland authorities had tried to pressure him into giving up a list of bookstore customers.

Lam Wing-kee was one of five Hong Kong booksellers who
disappeared last year.
Isaac Lawrence/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong’s secretary for justice, and Lai Tung-kwok, the secretary for security, traveled to Beijing for meetings on Tuesday with Guo Shengkun, the Chinese minister of public security, about the booksellers’ case and the mechanism for informing Hong Kong about the detention of residents in the mainland.

The Beijing authorities said that Mr. Lam had admitted that he and others had collected more than 400,000 renminbi, or about $60,000, selling banned books to customers in mainland China, and that he violated the conditions of his parole by not returning there, the Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK reported. If he does not return, he could face harsher penalties, the mainland authorities said.

The mainland authorities also released a video of Mr. Lam confessing, RTHK reported.

Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement with the mainland. Mr. Lam said during his news conference that he had no plans to return there.

Since his revelations last month, Mr. Lam has been praised by members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp for standing up to pressure from the mainland authorities. But he has also been under attack from some former colleagues and pro-Beijing news outlets questioning his story.

He was scheduled to lead Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy march on July 1 but backed out hours before the event began, citing concerns about his safety.

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