HK Democracy Activist Says He Was ‘Stapled’ by Chinese Agents

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Tortured for Lionel Messi photo.

A prominent member of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party said on Friday he was beaten and “stapled” by mainland agents in the Chinese-controlled city before being dumped on a beach in what activists said was the latest warning to the democracy movement.

Howard Lam, a key pro-democracy activist in the former British colony, said he was even told in a telephone call not to give a photo signed by Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi to the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Lam was confronted by men speaking Mandarin, spoken in Beijing but not widely in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, outside a sports store, he told reporters.

He said the men took him away, interrogating him and stapling his skin 21 times for being “unpatriotic” in a nine-hour ordeal. He was knocked out and eventually found himself dumped on a beach in Hong Kong’s remote Sai Kung district.

“This is either to warn off the people of Hong Kong or create problems between Xi and Hong Kong,” said democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We do not know the whole objective of the beating up. Both may be the case.”

Hong Kong became a “special administrative region” of China in 1997, since when it has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees a range of freedoms not enjoyed in China, including a direct vote for half of the 70-seat legislative assembly.

But activists say those freedoms have come under threat with perceived meddling by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

Hong Kong’s police commissioner, Lau Wai-chung, told media he was taking Lam’s accusations seriously and they were attaching great importance to investigating the case.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council was not immediately available for comment.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly said they would never do anything illegal and that Hong Kong’s autonomy was fully respected.

Mainland officers cannot enforce Chinese law in Hong Kong. If Chinese agents were found to be involved, the case is expected to send ripples through the local and diplomatic community about the Chinese state’s willingness to flout both its own and international laws.