HK booksellers’ case shows China’s authoritarian expansion


One of the five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared into Chinese custody last year has defied the mainland police, discussing his dramatic detention at the border with the mainland in October, his lack of legal rights during months of custody and his eventual forced confession. He also revealed that his captors were keenly interested in a hard drive that contained information on customers — enough to let him return to Hong Kong to get it, The New York Times reports:

The bookseller, Lam Wing-kee (left), came back to the city on Tuesday. At a packed news conference on Thursday evening, he spoke of being blindfolded after being stopped just as he passed a partition separating Hong Kong from Shenzhen on Oct. 24, put on a train and sent hundreds of miles north to the city of Ningbo, where he was kept in a room alone for five months.

“One time, two men from Beijing came and scolded me, saying I had made up rumors and that my books and business have damaged the reputation of the leadership,” Mr Lam said.

In surprise testimony that throws fresh light on the controversial disappearance last year of five Hong Kong booksellers, [Lam] said Thursday that he was abducted and detained by authorities from mainland China, The Wall Street Journal adds:

In a televised news conference, Lam Wing Kee—who is affiliated with a Hong Kong seller of books that are banned in the mainland—said he was detained by Chinese authorities in October during a visit to the mainland city of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, and his travel documents were confiscated.

Mr. Lam said he was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken by train to a cell measuring 200 to 300 square feet in the eastern city of Ningbo, about 13 hours away. There, Mr. Lam said, he was repeatedly interrogated by officers, whose exact roles and titles were unclear, and was forced to sign a document admitting guilt for mailing banned books to mainland China.

The case of the missing booksellers shocked many people in Hong Kong because the city has its own legal system, inherited from the British, with civil liberties similar to those found in Europe and the United States that are guaranteed until 2047, the 50th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, The Times adds:

After Mr. Lee’s disappearance, their cause reverberated internationally, because many people saw it as an expansion of China’s authoritarian legal system beyond its borders, in clear violation of the “one country, two systems” framework that allows Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy from Beijing.

A decade of imprisonment, torture and now house arrest haven’t stopped Gao Zhisheng (left) from speaking out against China’s human-rights abuses. The brave lawyer’s latest statement is a memoir written in secret, smuggled out of China and published this week in Taiwan, The Wall Street Journal adds (HT: FPI).

“My experience is just one part of the boundless suffering of the Chinese race under the cruelest regime in human history,” the author writes in the introduction to the book’s unpublished 87,000-word English translation, according to a transcript seen by the Guardian.

One of China’s best-known imprisoned dissidents, Yang Maodong, better known by his pen name, Guo Feixiong, is putting his already fragile health at risk after weeks on a hunger strike, after his sister said she had unsuccessfully asked the prison authorities to be allowed to see him and beg him to stop fasting, The New York Times reports.

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