A pro-democracy activist is claiming that he was abducted and tortured while walking around Hong Kong, all for writing to FC Barcelona and asking for a signed Lionel Messi photo. According to a report by the New York Times, Howard Lam wrote to the Catalan club, asking for the photo to give to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned for writing a pro-democracy manifesto back in 2008.
Lam wanted to give Liu the photo before he passed away from late-stage liver cancer, as the latter man was a big fan of Messi and the blaugrana. In fact, Liu had written to Barcelona himself after discovering he was terminally ill, hoping to receive it as a way of cheering up under the conditions of his imprisonment. Unfortunately, Liu passed away before the club was able to send the photo to Lam, but the Hong Kong-based activist still wanted to give the photo of the Argentine legend to Liu’s wife.
This is where the story gets weird. Lam claims that he received a threatening call this week that eventually led to his abduction: “Mr. Lam said he had received a phone call earlier this week from a man speaking Mandarin, a language not much used among Hong Kong’s Cantonese speakers. The man warned him not to give the Messi photo to Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia.”
Liu Xia has been living under house arrest, watched by Chinese authorities, since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2010. Since the passing of Liu, Xia has gone missing, with the couple’s US-based lawyer claiming that the government is behind her disappearance.
Lam then claims that he was abducted by men who made him inhale some form of gas that knocked him out, whereupon he woke up stripped of his clothes and tied up. They then proceeded to torture him with a staple gun: “Mr. Lam said the men asked him whether he was Christian, then one said he would “give you some crosses” and drove staples into his legs in a cross pattern. He said he lost consciousness after again being forced to inhale something and woke early Friday on a remote beach.”
As the Guardian reports, Lam’s alleged kidnapping comes during a time fraught with dissension in Hong Kong, as the territory’s Democratic party has been fighting back against increasing tension with the communist Beijing government.