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Why This Bookseller Is Still Afraid to Return Home to Hong Kong

“They charged me with the crime of selling illegal books. So it's obvious that if I stayed in Hong Kong, I'd be dead for sure.”

by Karen Ye and Dexter Thomas
Sep 5 2019, 5:38pm

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Theoretically, Lam Wing-kee is a free man today. But he’s still not going home.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that she would be formally withdrawing the extradition bill that sparked months of protests in Hong Kong. This bill would have allowed for criminals wanted by the central Chinese government to be sent to the mainland.

Lam, a bookseller who specialized in books that were banned by the Chinese government, would have been a target.

“I am wanted by the Chinese government,” Lam told VICE News. “They charged me with the crime of selling illegal books. So it's obvious that if I stayed in Hong Kong, I'd be dead for sure.”

Lam fled to Taiwan in April. And despite the bill being dropped, he says he has no plans of returning to Hong Kong, saying that he no longer feels safe there.

Instead, he is hoping to open a bookstore in Taipei, which will allow him to not only legally stay in Taiwan, but also make a defiant statement about political freedom.

Read: Hong Kong's Students Skip School as Protests Spread to the Classroom

Some Hong Kong protesters have been looking to Lam as an example, exploring Taiwan as a potential safe haven. But Taiwan does not have an asylum process, and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has avoided making any announcements about changing the policy.

VICE News visited Lam as he searched for a new home for his bookstore, and spoke to him about whether he feels he will ever truly feel safe in his newly adopted home.

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