Hong Kong 'abduction victim' convicted for misleading police

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong activist was found guilty on Friday (March 15) of "misleading police" after a local court decided his claims to have been abducted by mainland Chinese agents and punctured with staples were made up, local media reported.

Howard Lam, 44, a founding member of the city's largest pro-democracy party, was sentenced to five months in jail and was freed on bail pending an appeal.

Lam claimed in August 2017 that he had been kidnapped from a busy Hong Kong street in broad daylight over his plan to send a signed photo of footballer Lionel Messi to the widow of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

He held an explosive press conference showing his legs punctured by metal staples and red marks on his stomach.

The case touched a nerve in Hong Kong, which has been rattled in recent years by the disappearance of several booksellers who resurfaced in China facing charges - and the alleged rendition of billionaire businessman Xiao Jianhua in 2017.

But acting chief magistrate So Wai Tak concluded on Friday that Howard Lam's story was false and there never was an abduction, local newspaper South China Morning Post reported.

"He had orchestrated the entire incident," Mr So said.

Police arrested Lam after local news agency FactWire acquired CCTV surveillance footage which they said showed Lam walking in the neighbourhood of Yau Ma Tei after the time of his alleged abduction from that area.

The prosecution said during the trial that not a single person had witnessed the alleged abduction, according to local broadcaster RTHK.

Despite increasing concerns over mainland interference, Hong Kong still enjoys rights and freedoms unseen on the mainland, and it is illegal for mainland agents to operate in the semi-autonomous city.