On Wednesday the police officially pressed charges against Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin, accusing him of making false abduction claims and deliberately misleading the authorities.
Some in the pro-establishment camp believe the unexpected turn of events is likely to force the pan-democrats into full retreat on their campaign against the so-called co-location arrangements for the express rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The opposition groups will withdraw as the Lam saga has rendered them morally bankrupt in the eyes of the public, the argument went.
However, the pan-democrats don’t see it that way. They feel the public will remain concerned about the co-location issue despite the Lam fiasco.
As they point out, public anxiety and apprehension about the co-location arrangements, under which mainland border control officials will operate on Hong Kong soil, didn’t stem from Lam’s kidnapping claims last week, but rather, the abduction of the owners of the Causeway Bay Bookstore back in early 2016.
One strong indication about the growing public awareness and concern about the issue is the fact that over the past two days, volunteers of the Co-location Concern Group actually gave out more flyers across the city than ever, the pan-democrats say.
The strong response suggests that the Lam allegations and his subsequent arrest by the police haven’t swung public opinion in favor of the government as the pro-establishment camp claimed, at least not yet.
That said, the pan-democrats conceded that it would certainly take a heavy toll on the credibility of the Democratic Party if Lam’s alleged abduction eventually turns out to be totally false. If that worst-case scenario happens, the Democrats would inevitably have to bear full responsibility for the incident and apologize to the public.
As far as Lam is concerned, there are admittedly a lot of unsolved mysteries about his claims. If he did make up the entire story, why did he do so?
And if he was really mentally ill and was under a delusion that someone was going to kidnap him, as some had suggested, then how do we explain his great attention to detail such as wearing sunglasses and surgical mask on the day he was caught on CCTV cameras in Mongkok?
Meanwhile, as to the accusations against the Democratic Party that it should have reported the alleged abduction to the police immediately rather than calling a press conference first, some memberssaid they weren’t surprised or dismayed by that because the party handled bookseller Lam Wing-kee’s request for help exactly the same way last year.
Given the established practice, they believe the public shouldn’t have any reason to harbor suspicions about the way the Democratic Party dealt with the Howard Lam case this time.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 17
Translation by Alan Lee
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