Li Peng diary won't see light over copyright

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 June, 2010, 12:00am

A Hong Kong publisher, citing copyright problems, has aborted publication of a controversial diary by former premier Li Peng - just three days before it was to have hit bookstores.

A statement posted on the website of New Century Press yesterday says: 'According to copyright information provided by relevant institutions and Hong Kong copyright laws, we have to cancel the publication of the Tiananmen Diary of Li Peng, which is originally scheduled for June 22, due to copyright reasons.'

Bao Pu , founder of New Century Press, yesterday said he was approached by 'relevant institutions' which provided him with copyright information.

'Relevant institutions provided information related to the copyright [of Li's diaries] before the publication of the book. According to Hong Kong's copyright laws, I have to give up my original publication plan,' Bao said. He declined to name the institutions.

Li's book, in the form of a series of selected diary entries penned by the former premier from April 15 to June 24, 1989, details how the inner circle of the Communist Party leadership remained sharply divided on how to handle the protests, and the confrontation between then party secretary Zhao Ziyang and Li.

Previous reports said Li sent the manuscript to the Politburo in 2004 but its release was blocked.

The manuscript was obtained by the media this month and photocopies of it in simplified Chinese characters were posted on the internet - where they instantly became the hottest topic in mainland cyberspace.

Bao said he had planned to keep the book a secret until the day of its publication.

'But the news came out on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. It gave [the relevant institutions] enough time to react to my plan,' he said.

Bao last year published the explosive secret memoirs of Zhao - his father's former boss who was sacked as party chief for opposing the crackdown on the June 4 movement - in Hong Kong before the 20th anniversary of the 1989 incident.

Bao said he was passed a copy of the Li diary by a mysterious middleman in January and never signed copyright contracts with any person or institution.

Cai Yongmei , editor-in-chief of Hong Kong's Open Magazine, believes Beijing intervened.

'Li revealed in the book that incumbent leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao , supported the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protest 21 years ago. It will make Hu and Wen very unhappy,' she said.

'Li Peng has been eager to publish the book since 2004 or he would not have penned it. But Hu, Wen and other leaders will spare no effort to stop the book from coming out.'

She said copyright should not be an obstacle to publication because the book provides important historical material and it should be in the public domain.

New Century Press planned a first print run of 20,000 copies. Bao would not reveal the loss incurred. 'It's a pity. At least the content is released [to the public],' he said.