China wants bookseller back but Hong Kong says no chance

AP News
Posted: Jul 06, 2016 5:17 AM
China wants bookseller back but Hong Kong says no chance

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong officials said Wednesday there's little chance a bookseller wanted in mainland China will be sent back after mainland authorities threatened him with tougher punishment if he didn't return.

Security officials also said they will further investigate the case of Lam Wing-kee, whose revelations last month about being secretly arrested and interrogated over his company's books rekindled fears that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semiautonomous city.

Lam, who went missing last year, said he was allowed to return to Hong Kong in June on the condition he bring back information about his bookshop's customers. But he went off script and held a news conference to talk about his ordeal of being held for months in the city of Ningbo, near Shanghai, and vowed never to return to the mainland.

Ningbo police warned Lam on Tuesday to return to the mainland, "otherwise they will be forced to take other legal measures," the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The police said Lam violated his bail terms by declaring his intention not to return to the mainland.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said "there is no legal arrangement for the transfer of persons to the mainland authorities" because the city has no extradition agreement with the mainland. Lai and other officials spoke to reporters a day after meeting with their counterparts in Beijing about the case.

The Hong Kong delegation was given a summary of the case against Lam by police in Ningbo, where the investigation started after police found books published outside the mainland were being sold illegally, Xinhua said.

They were also shown a video of Lam eating meals, having a haircut and getting his blood pressure checked as evidence he was well treated during his detention. However, it also showed him sitting in a room with padded walls and no visible windows, watched over by surveillance cameras from several angles.

Lam was one of five men who worked for a publisher churning out racy books on China's Communist leaders. They operated their business legally in Hong Kong, which has wide autonomy and a separate legal system, but their books were banned in the mainland. He and the others disappeared last year, only to turn up months later in the mainland, detained or involved in investigations.