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Few books with “sensitive” content on sale at HK Book Fair 2021


A stall at the book fair displays a banner in Chinese that urges people to “Go read, be upright”.

Books that contain politically sensitive content can hardly be found at the Hong Kong Book Fair 2021, the first such event held after the Hong Kong National Security Law was introduced last year. 


Publishers say fears about breaching the law, which bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, have discouraged them from pubishing some titles.


Hillway Press is the only publisher that has released books whose content may possibly be regarded as sensitive, including The Journey Through the Brick Wall and 21 July 2019.


The first book is an autobiography of Raymond Yeung Tsz-chun, a liberal studies teacher who was shot in the eye in a protest on 12 June in 2019 during the anti-extradition bill movement. 


The second is written by Ryan Lau Chun-kong, one of the victims in the so-called 721 incident, who offers his account of what happened in the evening of July 21, 2019, when a number of people deemed to be sympathetic to the anti-extradition bill protests were attacked by alleged gangsters in the Yuen Long MTR station. 


Mr Yeung, who has since quit teaching to start Hillway, also revealed that the company was prepared to publish three other books that contain sensitive content, but no printers were willing to print them. He did not disclose what those three books were about.

The cover of A Journey Through the Brick Wall, in which Raymond Yeung Tsz-chun tells the story of how he lost an eye in a protest.

Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, president of the publishing house Subculture, said fears over the “white terror” of unintentionally violating the national security law now pervaded the whole publishing industry. 


“Under the vague standards of the national security law, we have abandoned some books that only contain cultural content,” said Mr Pang.


“For example, Liu Xiaobo (the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner who was jailed on the mainland for inciting subversion of state power and died in prison) and his wife (Liu Xia, who was put under house arrest for eight years before being allowed to leave China) had released some poems, which are not linked to the politics. Still we chose not to sell them to avoid any trouble,” he said. 

Conspicuously absent from the fair are Most Kwai Chung Limited and Greenfield Book Store. At the last book fair held in 2019, the former released a number of critical books on the anti-extradition bill movement, while the latter published several books that have since been banned on the mainland.


Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Benjamin Chau Kai-leung, deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organises the fair, said the council did not conduct any investigations on the content of the books on sale, but he believed the publishers knew where the boundaries lied.


Yiu Shuk-yi, a customer of Hillway Press, said “the number of local publishers has reduced, and the types of books are less diverse.”


“If books that I bought violate the national security law, I will just put them in my safe deposit box,” she said.


The book fair is usually an annual event, but it was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 epidemic.


Book Fair 2021 is being held from 14 to 20 of July at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and has attracted 763 publishers.


Staff and security guards at the fair constantly reminded visitors to keep their distance and avoid gathering.


《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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