There are no legal mechanisms to deport the bookseller to China, the city's security chief said. Lam Wing-kee was one of five booksellers to disappear in 2015, only to reappear in China for alleged criminal acts.
Hong Kong police on Wednesday offered to protect a local bookseller who went missing in 2015 and reappeared in mainland China, where he was detained for eight months without access to a lawyer.
Lam Wing-kee was one of five booksellers peddling gossipy literature about leading Chinese politicians, who disappeared last year and resurfaced in China to make a televised confession of criminal acts. Many observers have said the booksellers were coerced into making the confessions.
In June, he returned to Hong Kong on bail to pickup a hard drive containing information on his mainland customers.
He was expected to return to China and hand it over to authorities, but instead decided to remain in Hong Kong and provide a full account of his detention.
Mainland authorities issued a warning on Tuesday, saying Lam violated the terms of his bail and needed to return immediately or face criminal enforcement measures.
"There is no legal arrangement for the transfer of a person to the mainland authorities and the Hong Kong government will handle all cases in accordance with the law of Hong Kong," said the city's Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok at a press conference on Wednesday
Lai noted that senior officials visited Beijing on Tuesday and discussed the bookseller's case, adding that both sides agreed that mainland authorities should notify Hong Kong within 14 days if a citizen is arrested or detained.
Senior Hong Kong officials have discussed Lam's case with Beijing, but noted that there are no legal mechanisms for his deportation
Lam's account of his detention sparked protests in Hong Kong, with high-profile pro-democracy campaigner saying he "is the role model for Hong Kong people - facing the suppression of the communist regime."
The bookseller was expected at a pro-democracy rally last week but did not participate after claiming mainland security agents tailed him while en route to the event.
"The government and I are paying close attention to the issue of Lam Wing-kee's concerns for his personal safety," said Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Wednesday.
Under the "one country, two systems" arrangement of 1997, which placed Hong Kong under Chinese rule, it is illegal for mainland law enforcement agencies to exercise jurisdiction in the city.
However, activists claim Beijing has not abided by the agreement, with some calling for greater autonomy.
ls/sms (AFP, Reuters)