17 March 2018
Bookseller Lam Wing-kee greets supporters outside his Causeway Bay Books outlet before taking part in a protest march on June 18. Photo: Reuters
Bookseller Lam Wing-kee greets supporters outside his Causeway Bay Books outlet before taking part in a protest march on June 18. Photo: Reuters

Lam Wing-kee epitomizes the spirit of Hong Kong people

I’ve said before that Hong Kong citizenship can sometimes offer a person more protection and reassurance than what people holding other foreign passports can get if they fall in trouble in China.

Lam Wing-kee, the co-owner of Causeway Bay Bookstore who had been detained in the mainland for more than 8 months, and who is a 100 percent Hong Kong citizen, has come home in one piece and is unafraid to speak up.

That is in contrast to his fellow booksellers who are either staying mum after their release, or are still unaccounted for.

The developments surrounding Lam’s colleagues Lee Bo and Gui Minhai, both of whom have foreign passports, show that an overseas citizenship is of no help when you are on Chinese soil and the mainland’s secret police is after you.

As I was writing this article I learnt that Lam had given an interview to Channel News Asia, during which he told the reporter in no uncertain terms that he is for the independence of Hong Kong.

I heard that TVB had also arranged for an interview with him, but cancelled it at the last minute as it got cold feet, probably due to the fear that Lam might drop another bombshell during the interview which could land the network in trouble.

The video clip of Lam’s interview with Channel News Asia went viral on the internet shortly after it was aired, and the bookseller has become talk of the town for his unwavering advocacy of Hong Kong independence.

Thanks to the internet, the traditional print and broadcast media no longer have the monopoly on the dissemination of information, which means media owners and the authorities can no longer control the public discourse like they did before.

The information superhighway now enables people from around the world to stay tuned to up-to-the-minute reports on basically everything that is going on across the globe. Media blackouts imposed by dictators, to keep the public in the dark about controversial issues, no longer work.

During his interview, Lam used vivid metaphors to describe Hong Kong-China relations, winning praise from many viewers.

The relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland is like that of a forced marriage, Lam said.

We were forced to marry China against our will, and almost 20 years on it has become crystal clear that it hasn’t been a happy marriage. So why don’t we just divorce and move on separately, he said.

China’s state police might have thought that Lam would be just another pushover like Lee Bo, and that he will zip his lips and keep a low profile for the rest of his life. That’s why they let him go home.

What they didn’t know is that Lam was probably just pretending to be submissive when he was in custody in the mainland in order to fool the communist authorities into believing that he had “converted” and hence it was safe to send him home.

That has proved to be one heck of a masterful trick.

The political officer who signed off on the paper to release Lam would have never imagined that an old guy like Lam was putting on an act for eight months in order to get released early.

Lam always kept in mind that he had a more important mission to complete, which is, to tell the entire world the stark truth — the Chinese Communist Party’s disrespect for basic human rights hasn’t changed a bit, despite all the nation’s material wealth and progress over the years.

Lam’s unwavering determination and courageous act epitomizes the go-getting spirit, righteousness, resourcefulness, endurance and mental toughness that define Hong Kong people.

He has not only set a good example to citizens in Hong Kong who are in their 50s or 60s like myself, but also inspired our young people who want to make a difference.

Hong Kong independence is no longer a topic restricted to a small minority in the city, but has instead become a legitimate subject for open debate in mainstream society.

Following Lam’s bold remarks, one cannot avoid or push this subject aside anymore.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 21.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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