The strange case of a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who claimed mainland Chinese agents stapled his legs as a warning has taken another twist after police arrested him Tuesday on suspicion of providing false information.
Howard Lam made waves last week with his eye-catching allegations, which rekindled fears about Beijing interfering in Hong Kong despite promising it considerable autonomy since the 1997 handover from Britain. But police said his story didn’t check out.
“The victim’s reports about his activities on that day and the investigation’s results do not match,” police said in a statement, “At this time, there’s no evidence that anyone was illegally detained in Hong Kong.”
Lam, 42, had intended to send a signed photo of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, the widow of late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, and posted his plans on Facebook. He said he received a call early last week from an acquaintance on the mainland warning him not to send the photo.
Lam said that on Thursday, unknown Mandarin-speaking men abducted him from a busy street in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong and rendered him unconscious. He said they beat him and warned him not to follow through on his plan.
He said they also stapled Xs into his thighs because he is Christian. He displayed his wounds to reporters at a news conference Friday, flanked by fellow members of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, before filing a police report and going to a hospital.
Police said Tuesday that they arrested Lam on suspicion of providing false information to mislead police after looked into his allegations, including checking surveillance footage from cameras in the area.
Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai said party leaders decided to air Lam’s allegations in public instead of going to police right away because they feared for his personal safety.
He said Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy party would provide a full account after the police conclude their investigation.
“We hope the truth will come to light as soon as possible,” Wu told reporters.
Lam’s case stirred concerns that Beijing is tightening its hold on Hong Kong, following other recent cases including the secret detention of a group of Hong Kong booksellers and a Chinese-Canadian tycoon whose whereabouts are unknown. In both cases, mainland security agents are suspected of taking them across the border, in violation of Hong Kong’s constitution.