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Hong Kong activist says Chinese tortured him for Messi photo

Hong Kong's main pro-democracy party has said that one of its members was briefly abducted and tortured by suspected mainland Chinese security agents because he planned to send a signed photo of football star Lionel Messi to a dissident's widow.

The party member, Howard Lam, told reporters that unidentified men grabbed him on the street on Thursday afternoon, forced him into a car and made him smell something that caused him to lose consciousness.

When he awoke, he was tied up and blindfolded. His Mandarin-speaking captors interrogated him about the photo and Liu Xia, the widow of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

He said they hit him in the stomach repeatedly and told him they knew he was a Christian so they wanted to give him a cross, and then used a stapler on his thighs to make cross shapes.

Before Mr Liu died last month of cancer while in custody, Mr Lam wrote to FC Barcelona to ask for a signed photo of the Argentine player that he could forward to Mr Liu because he thought it would cheer him up.

Mr Liu was reputed to be a soccer fan and Messi follower.

The photo arrived too late, so Mr Lam said he would then try to get it to Liu Xia. He held it up at a news conference, where he also let reporters see the staples still in his legs.

Mr Lam said he was drugged again and later woke up on a beach.

He said he would file a report with Hong Kong police, who did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

It's the latest incident to stoke fears that Beijing is tightening its grip on Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

Many residents fear that China's communist rulers are backtracking on a promise to let the city have considerable autonomy following its 1997 handover from Britain.

Other recent cases include the secret detentions of a group of Hong Kong booksellers and the disappearance of a Chinese-Canadian tycoon from his hotel suite.

They are believed to have been carried out by mainland Chinese agents, who are not authorised to operate in Hong Kong.

AP

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