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Hong Kong Bookseller Describes Harrowing Ordeal With Chinese Police


A bookseller who vanished in Hong Kong says he's revealing what really happened. He's one of five who sold books critical of Chinese leaders. All disappeared. Then, all reappeared and claimed nothing was wrong. Now one is saying more. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Sixty-one-year-old Lam Wing-kee looked exhausted as he told reporters in Hong Kong how mainland police blindfolded and handcuffed him after he crossed the border into China last October. He said he was kept for five months in a tiny room, watched 24 hours a day and interrogated several times.


LAM WING-KEE: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "I don't I don't understand how such a big country could treat a bookseller like this," he said, "just because they think that he's broken a law." Lam was not charged with any offense. He used to run the Causeway Bay bookstore in Hong Kong, which sold gossipy, sensational books about Chinese politics. They're legal in Hong Kong but banned on the mainland. Like others among his colleagues at the bookstore who also disappeared, Lam later resurfaced on Chinese television.


WING-KEE: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "These books had a bad influence on society," he confessed, "and I accept my punishment." Yesterday, Lam said that his confession was staged.


WING-KEE: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: "There was a director and a script," Lam explained, "and I had to memorize and read the script." Lam said that one of his colleagues, Lee Bo told him that he had actually been abducted from Hong Kong and taken to the mainland. Chinese police have no jurisdiction in Hong Kong, and Lee previously denied that he was abducted. University of Hong Kong law professor Michael Davis says that Lam's remarks have basically confirmed what folks in Hong Kong had feared.

MICHAEL DAVIS: This way pressure is applied to get confessions and to intimidate people into misleading the public about what's going on.

KUHN: Lam said he feels safe being back in Hong Kong, and he has no plans to set foot on the mainland again. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.