Several publishers refused to participate in the Hong Kong book fair amid heightened political scrutiny

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Held in July, the Hong Kong Book Fair, the largest book exhibition in Asia, will be held for the second time since the implementation of the national security law. Several local editors were told they could not participate due to their allegedly damaging views in the increasingly tense political environment.

In an interview with Commercial Radio Hong Kong on May 27, Daniel Wong, who runs the free Kind of Culture press, said he applied to participate earlier this year, but was notified this month that his application had been rejected without any indication of the reason for which the decision was made.

“It’s surprising to do that [without any reason].” Wong said he repeatedly tried to contact the organizer, the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council (HKTDC), but did not give a reason for the refusal.

At last year’s book fair, two books for sale at the Kind of Culture booth had already been charged with alleged national security law violations in an HKTDC notice, Wong said, adding that they had subsequently received no warning or order to stop selling the books.

Wong thinks Kind of Culture’s refusal to participate in the book fair may have something to do with the current political situation.

Hillway Culture press is a similar case.

On May 16, the HKTDC informed bookstore and publisher Hillway Culture that its application to sell books at the 2022 Hong Kong Book Fair was rejected, and also did not state a reason.

Speaking Speaking on Radio Free Radio on May 20, Raymond Yeung, co-founder of Hillway Culture, said he viewed the incident as a kind of political crackdown.

Considering “there is still room for people to express themselves even if the official platform stifles freedom”, Hillway Culture is determined to organize an independent book fair for local residents and an international book fair in line for Hong Kongers around the world, Yeung said.

The local book fair will be called the Hong Kong People’s Book Fair, which is different from HKTDC’s Hong Kong Book Fair, and is expected to be held at the same time, Yeung said.

Copies of a publication on the Hong Kong protests from 2005 to 2015 are displayed at a stand during the annual Hong Kong Book Fair in Hong Kong on July 17, 2021. (Bertha Wang/AFP via Getty Images)

Yeung was a former liberal studies teacher at the Diocesan Girls’ School. In 2016, he co-founded Hillway Culture and regularly publishes and sells books on democratic movements and social policy, including “A Journey Through the Brick Wall” and “Yuen Long Dark Night.”

Yeung’s right eye was damaged by police tear gas during a protest against the extradition law on June 12, 2019.

Another company rejected from exposure is Humming Publishing, which was established in late 2018.

In addition, Jimmy Pang, president of Subculture, a publishing house that was at the book fair every year, said he would not attend the book fair due to changes in the social environment and lack of support. authors wishing to publish books in recent years.

Over the past decades, the Hong Kong Book Fair has been a vehicle for freedom of publication and freedom of expression. But now HKTDC needs to take the lead and explain the criteria behind the book fair’s choices to industry players, Pang said.

The Hong Kong Book Fair, established in 1990, is one of the most influential book fairs in Asia, and is also a pledge of Hong Kong’s freedom of publication.

Thanks to Hong Kong’s unique British background, the fair attracts many publishers from both sides of the Taiwan Strait every year, and some banned books are often displayed at book fairs.

However, with the national security law in force in Hong Kong, freedom of expression has been severely suppressed and fewer dissident political books focusing on current issues can be published.

Epoch Times Photo
People hold up copies of the Apple Daily as they demonstrate for press freedom at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on Aug. 11, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

Hong Kong has descended into authoritarianism according to an EU report

On May 20, the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a joint annual report on Hong Kong.

In the 20-page report, the EU says the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has broken its promise, made in the Sino-British joint statement, to safeguard the high degree of autonomy and human rights and Hong Kong’s freedoms until 2047, and became increasingly authoritarian.

The report notes that most democrats are imprisoned or in exile, more than 50 civil society organizations have dissolved and some international organizations have closed their offices in Hong Kong. The impact of the implementation of the national security law is stronger than expected, covering a wide range of crimes, and the law has imposed a chilling effect on human rights and freedoms, with self-censorship growing in the media, academia and civil society.

The Hong Kong government only allows non-governmental organizations that do not challenge the government to continue operating, which is the same as in mainland China, according to the report.

Julia Ye

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Julia Ye is an Australia-based journalist who joined The Epoch Times in 2021. She mainly covers China-related issues and has been a journalist since 2003.

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