July 20, 2016
Banned books to be sold at Hong Kong Book Fair
by Simon Reichley
Today marks the opening of the 27th annual Hong Kong Book Fair. The fair is set to attract over 600 exhibitors, and organizers expect to surpass one million attendees.
While we’re sure everyone is very excited about the new theme of the fair, “Chinese Martial Arts Literature,” the bigger news is that vendors will be openly selling titles that are banned on the mainland. This open defiance of Chinese hegemony comes hot on the heels of another book-related struggle between party leadership in Beijing and the sellers of books banned in the mainland but legal in Hong Kong, formally a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Of course we’re referring to the strange and seemingly interminable case of Lam Wing-Kee and his colleagues at Mighty Current Media and Causeway Bay Books, which MobyLives has covered at length.
Executive director of Hong Kong’s Trade Development Council Benjamin Chau Kai-leung told the South China Morning Post, “Hong Kong is a free and open place… no matter what political issues the books talk about, they can be sold at the book fair.” And this is no empty threat. According to the same SCMP article, one author will be selling “2,000 books about self-determination of Hong Kong… at publisher Subculture’s stall.”
The most noteworthy book being made available is The Collected Works of Zhao Ziyang, a collection of writings by the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Zhao (who died under house arrest in 2005) was one of China’s most notable reformers during the 80s, and a relatively outspoken critic of the party’s crackdown after the Tiananmen Square protests.
His secretly recorded memoirs were published back in 2009, and this collection, published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, was recently smuggled off of the mainland. According to the director of the press, Gan Qi, the documents expose for the first time many of the off-screen power struggles and ideological battles of the party leadership during Zhao’s career.
Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.