Is Howard Lam lying through his teeth?

August 15, 2017 12:26
Howard Lam, accompanied by Democratic Party officials, shows the wounds he said suspected mainland security agents inflicted on him during his alleged abduction and torture. Photo: HKEJ

The case of the alleged abduction of Democratic Party member Howard Lam has failed to draw the same public attention as the case of Causeway Bay Bookstore's Li Bo early last year.

Does it mean that Hong Kong people don't feel much concerned about the latest incident of supposed mainland law enforcement in our territory, or is it that they simply don't buy the pro-democracy activist's tale?

Lam links his alleged abduction and torture to his plan to send an autographed photo of Argentine football star Lionel Messi to Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia, but his narrative, from the time he said he was abducted in Yau Ma Tei on Thursday to the time he found himself on a beach in Sai Kung on Friday, raises more questions than answers.

Why mainland agents would seize, drug and torture him for a photo of a soccer star, or even for trying to contact the widow of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is hard to fathom.

Such a puzzle has enabled the pro-Beijing camp to cast doubts on Lam's allegations and accuse him of fabricating the story to throw mud at Beijing's reputation and raise fears among the public about the dangers of the co-location arrangement for the Express Rail Link.

Lam, the supposed victim, has quickly turned into a villain. With the public opinion going against him, Lam turned his resentment to the Hong Kong police, and accused the force of trying to discredit him by being selective in disclosing information about the case.

Before the Hong Kong public make their own judgement on the case, they should carefully evaluate the facts.

Accoding to Lam, the incident happened at around 4 p.m. on Thursday, shortly after he bought a football shirt from a shop in Yau Ma Tei. He said he was on his way to the MTR station on Pitt Street when he was snatched and drugged by two Putonghua-speaking men, whom he suspected of being Chinese national security officers.

However, CCTV footage seen by FactWire news agency on Monday afternoon appears to belie Lam's story. The video clips appear to show him wearing a cap, sunglasses and a face mask, alone and apparently unharmed, as he was walking from Portland Street at around 5 p.m. on Thursday, or an hour after he was supposed to have been abducted. No suspicious-looking persons were seen near him during the three-minute walk.

Hours after the FactWire report was published, police arrested Lam on Tuesday morning on suspicion of misleading them about his kidnapping claims.

Police said Lam's story does not match the findings of their investigation. Thus, they suspect the Democratic Party member was providing false information to mislead the police.

The question, however, is, why did the police immediately conclude that Lam fabricated his story and arrested him right away?

Why did the police immediately conclude that the man on the CCTV footage was actually Lam? Did they review the CCTV footage or just relied on FactWire's report? Police did not explain exactly how Lam misled the police.  And if Lam was lying, did he injure himself by applying a stapler to his legs?

No doubt, the CCTV footage is creating doubts on the credibility of Lam and even his esteemed colleagues at the Democratic Party, including founder Martin Lee and former chairman Albert Ho, who helped him in bringing out the matter to the public via a press conference last Friday.

Ho has been quoted as saying that he still believes Lam's allegations and that the CCTV footage may not be telling the whole story.

But as far as the public is concerned, the entire party is now under the shadow and may be a willing party to a conspiracy of disinformation and perjury.

This could give the pro-establishment camp an opportunity to accuse the opposition of misleading the public on cross-border law enforcement.

The government of Carrie Lam should remain neutral on the issue until the police finally decide whether to file charges against Lam, or if new evidence surfaces to support his allegations.

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EJ Insight writer