Hong Kong democrat arrested for 'misleading' police after abduction claims

Howard Lam (right) claimed he had been beaten by mainland Chinese agents in Hong Kong.
Howard Lam (right) claimed he had been beaten by mainland Chinese agents in Hong Kong. PHOTO: OFFICE OF LAM CHEUNG-TING

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong police said on Tuesday (Aug 15) that they have arrested a prominent member of the opposition Democratic Party for "misleading police" after he claimed he had been assaulted and illegally detained by mainland Chinese agents in the city.

Howard Lam was shown on local television, in handcuffs, being taken away in a van by police in the early hours of Monday morning. He was questioned at a police station, with evidence taken from his home, including a tablet computer, mobile phones and a pair of sunglasses.

"We believe the information he gave is false," Cheng Lai Ki, a superintendent of police, told reporters. The police said in a statement that Lam had been arrested for "misleading police".

Lam had last week held a press conference, claiming he had been beaten by mainland Chinese agents in Hong Kong before being dumped on a beach in what activists said was a shocking breach of Hong Kong's autonomy by Chinese authorities.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, was handed back amid promises that Beijing would grant the city a large degree of autonomy and freedom not allowed in mainland China, under a so-called "one country, two systems" arrangement.

Lam, a longstanding and active member of the city's largest and most established opposition political group, the Democratic Party, said he had also been warned in a telephone call not to give an autographed photograph from Barcelona's star footballer Lionel Messi to the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Lam said he was confronted by men speaking Mandarin, the main language in mainland China but not widely used in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, outside a sports store. Lam was not, however, able to give concrete evidence to back up his claims that the men were Chinese agents.

Lam had said the men took him away and interrogated him in a nine-hour ordeal. He also showed reporters wounds on his body, including welts and a series of metal staples that he said the men had punched into his skin for being "unpatriotic". He was knocked out and eventually found himself dumped on a remote beach, Lam added.

But in closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage carried on local television, a man in sunglasses and a medical face mask with a passing resemblance to Lam was shown walking freely in the area at the time of the purported abduction.

Lam, when shown the footage, said that he believed the man in the footage was not him.

Lam could not be immediately reached by Reuters for comment.