Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Howard Lam until recently was a fringe figure in Hong Kong's Democratic Party. He’d been around the political scene for decades, although he didn’t have a high profile. Nor was he considered notable or exceptional in any aspect. That’s all changed. And, in the process, Mr. Lam has damaged the Democratic Party. That includes its leading member, Martin Lee SC.
Lam appeared at a press conference last week to assert he’d been kidnapped and tortured. He claimed Mainland security agents were responsible. His attempts to send messages to a Chinese dissident prompted their actions. Lam claimed he was seized off a busy street. He then had staples punched into his legs, before being abandoned on a remote beach.
So what did he do next? He went home, had a shower and only later reported the matter to party officials. Note - he didn't contact the police, seek medical attention nor tell anyone else.
The first the authorities knew was when Lam appeared at a press conference. The public was treated to Mr Lam’s more than adequate girth. He made great play of displaying the staples still in position on his upper thighs. In exactly the location you’d expect to find self-inflicted injuries. From the outset, his story didn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny. And yet, senior Democrats, including a barrister, a solicitor and a former ICAC investigator bought it without question.
Many of us recognised the injuries as self-harm. Lam’s actions led further weight to our suspicions. No immediate call to police, instead a grandstanding press conference. Plus, even before reporting the matter to the police he accused them of being ineffective. The Democratic heavyweights nodded in agreement, going along with this charade.
No one spoke about the compromised evidence. No mention of the fact that the later you make a report, the less likely that leads can be developed. From the outset, Lam and his supporters were more concerned with publicity.
Even a cursory examination of Lam's story revealed flaws. A daytime abduction on a busy street. The injuries. Lam's conduct. All these should have set off alarm bells. Yet, all this escaped senior Democrats, who rushed to embrace Lam's fantasy. To them, this was irrefutable proof that Mainland agents are operating in Hong Kong. Blinded by this false narrative and hubris, they went into overdrive. Press conferences, briefings and interviews all fed the media frenzy. Here was proof that China is interfering in Hong Kong by criminal means. You could sense the excitement of the Democrats - they salivated in rapture. They couldn't believe their luck.
Except, their case was about to collapse with a resounding thud. CCTV footage emerged that refuted Lam’s version of events. He can be seen strolling unaccompanied near the alleged kidnap location. He next catches a bus to a remote area. There is no gang grabbing him off the street, no kidnap. No Mainland agents.
Now, Lam is either a fantasist or suffering some kind of mental delusion. Either way, his story is now destroyed. He is under arrest for making a false report. The police he criticised have done a fine job to expose his deceit.
Moreover, the whole episode has uncovered a fundamental challenge facing the Pan Dems. Their distorted view of China, with its deep prejudices, means they misinterpret events. Coupled with a rush to judgment, theirs is a distorted view. For example, the proposal for the High-Speed Rail link, with one-stop clearance, is unacceptable to the poisoned mindset of the Pan Dems.
Even now, in the face of overwhelming evidence that Lam lied, senior Democrats are not accepting of the proof. This denial is revealing of their distorted silo thinking. It’s also something that raises profound public disquiet. Especially when you are dealing with individuals from a legal background. Both Martin Lee and Albert Ho's credibility is now compromised. Both rallied to support Lam despite the abundant gaps in his story. As senior legal figures, one can only conclude their judgement is severely lacking.
The Democrats rushed into believing Lam’s fantasy. Their collective false narrative regarding China twisted their judgement. With the co-location issue for the High-Speed Rail link at the fore of political discussions, Lam’s story was a godsend to them. Now, their amateur conduct has damaged their cause and standing. In addition, its exposed them as irresponsible fear mongers. They will struggle to explain themselves.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.