The American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom today praised Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee for revealing details of his illegal imprisonment by Chinese authorities and for refusing to identify customers in China who purchased books that are critical of Chinese officials.
At a press conference in Hong Kong on Friday, Lam confirmed that he and four other employees of Mighty Current, a book publisher, and its bookstore, the Causeway Bay Bookstore, were illegally detained last year and held incommunicado on the Chinese mainland. Lam, the bookstore manager, was allowed to return to Hong Kong this week when he promised to retrieve records of Chinese customers of Mighty Current and give them to authorities.
Since the disappearance of the booksellers last year, it was widely suspected that they had been kidnaped. Chinese officials confirmed that the men were in China but insisted that they were there voluntarily, assisting authorities in “investigations.” When three of the men later returned to Hong Kong, they denied that they had been held against their will. At the press conference, Lam confirmed that he had been detained in October when he arrived in China on a trip. He was blindfolded and put on a train that took him to a distant province where he was interrogated about the sale of Mighty Current books to residents of the mainland. For five months, he was held in a small room under 24-hour guard. He said that a string was attached to his toothbrush to ensure that he couldn’t use it to commit suicide.
During the course of his imprisonment, Lam was shown records of the customers of the Causeway Bay Bookstore and asked to identify those who had purchased books published by Mighty Current. “I didn’t dare tell them about the readers because I was worried that those readers would be implicated, and then they would think that Hongkongers – or I – had betrayed them. But I didn’t do so,” Lam said at the press conference. He added: “I also want to tell the whole world. This isn’t about me, this isn’t about a bookstore, this is about everyone. This is the bottom line of the Hong Kong people. This is Hongkongers’ bottom line – Hongkongers will not bow down before brute force.”
America’s booksellers, publishers and librarians wish to express their deep admiration for Lam and his courageous defense of the right of the Chinese people to read the books they want. We join him in condemning the Chinese government for its illegal arrest and detention of people engaged in the publication and sale of books. In addition, we demand the speedy release of Gui Minhai, the last Mighty Current employee in custody, and call on Hong Kong authorities to protect the Hong Kong booksellers from further retribution by the Chinese government.
About the American Booksellers Association (www.BookWeb.org)
Founded in 1900, the American Booksellers Association is a not-for-profit trade organization devoted to meeting the needs of its core members—independently owned bookstores with storefront locations—through education, information dissemination, business products and services, and advocacy. ABA exists to protect and promote the interests of independent retail book businesses, as well as to protect the First Amendment rights of every American. The association actively supports free speech, literacy, and programs that support local and independent retail shops. A board of 11 booksellers governs the Association. ABA is headquartered in White Plains, New York.