A Hong Kong bookseller who disappeared into Chinese custody for half a year raised nearly US$100,000 in less than a day on Friday (Sept. 6) as he tries to open a new store in Taiwan, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported.
Lam Wing-kee fled to Taiwan in April after Hong Kong announced plans to allow extraditions to China, a move which sparked months of massive street protests in the financial hub.
The 64-year-old was one of five publishers selling gossip-filled tomes on China’s leaders who vanished at the end of 2015, resurfacing in mainland custody and making televised confessions.
Their disappearance — and the abduction of a billionaire from a five-star hotel by suspected Chinese agents — caused widespread alarm in Hong Kong.
Lam launched an online crowd-funding campaign late Thursday to open a bookstore in Taiwan, the CNA report said.
By Friday evening over 1,600 people had pledged more than NT$3.11 million (US$99,800), exceeding his target of NT$2.80 million in less than a day.
“Many thanks for everyone’s support … thank you for giving me more confidence to accomplish this,” Lam said in a message on a Facebook page for his bookstore project.
He added that he aims to pick a location in six months and open his shop by mid-2020.
Lam was the man who blew the whistle on what happened to the missing booksellers, the CNA report said.
He was allowed back to Hong Kong in June 2016 on condition that he pick up a hard drive listing the bookstore’s customers and return to the mainland.
Instead he skipped bail and went public with explosive testimony detailing how he was blindfolded by mainland police after crossing the border at Shenzhen and spent months being interrogated.
Lam fled to Taiwan after Hong Kong’s extradition bill was announced, saying he feared being sent to the mainland if the law passed, the CNA report said.
Taiwan’s history of providing sanctuary to Chinese dissidents has been mixed.
The island still does not recognize the legal concept of asylum but has, on occasion, allowed dissidents to stay on long-term visas.
Speaking to Vice news this week, Lam said he would not return home, despite the controversial extradition bill being officially dropped.
“I am wanted by the Chinese government,” he told Vice. “It’s obvious that if I stayed in Hong Kong, I’d be dead for sure.”
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has pledged to provide assistance to Hong Kongers facing prosecution for involvement in anti-government protests who seek sanctuary on the island, sparking a rebuke from Beijing to “stop meddling” in the territory’s affairs.
Ties with Beijing have soured since Tsai came to power in 2016 because her party refuses to recognize the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China.”
The extradition protests have plunged Hong Kong into crisis and present a huge challenge to Beijing’s authority.