Passion sustains publisher

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am

Outspoken publisher Jin Zhong regards his mission with almost religious fervour.

'As a young man, I was very moved by the life of two people. One was an American missionary who lived all his adult life in a remote part of Yunnan province and wrote a history of the ancient Naxi people. He is still well remembered there today.

'The second was a Russian revolutionary who spent 20 years in prison. When I read a book about her, I wept. I greatly admired these two people.'

He said that while he was on the mainland, he was too afraid to speak up but that, when he reached the safety of Hong Kong, he found his voice.

'My motivation comes from my understanding of history. It is not a personal grudge, because my family survived, unlike so many others, including those close to Mao Zedong , like Peng Dehuai and Liu Shaoqi .

'Mao was a mass murderer with no redeeming features. What is worse is that he committed his crimes after those of Hitler and Stalin had been exposed. He copied Stalin and went further. Are the lives of Chinese people not worth anything? Mao is the biggest issue of the last 60 years. By comparison, other questions, like June 4, are small issues.'

The books Open has published reflect this view of history - The Victims of the Cultural Revolution, The Xinyang Incident about one million people starving to death in southern Henan during the Great Famine (1959-1961), a biography of the Panchen Lama, who was imprisoned for 18 years after sending Mao a long critique of the brutal treatment by the new government of the Tibetan people.

It also published a book on Charter 08, a declaration of democracy and political reform published by Chinese intellectuals in December 2008. It was because he was one of the principal authors of this document that Liu Xiaobo is serving 11 years in prison.

Jin's passion is not shared by most Hongkongers; few of them buy his magazine.

'It is too extreme and ignores all the achievements of the Chinese government of the last 30 years,' said Wang Li, an IT specialist who is an occasional reader. 'People born after 1970 are not interested in the topics it covers.

'Beijing has left it alone because of one country, two systems. In any event, as long as the magazine and books do not enter China, the government does not care,' he said. 'Jin has no organisation.'

Ye Lian-chun, a secondary school teacher who studied in Taiwan, is more supportive. 'At a time when the Hong Kong media are more sympathetic to and influenced by the communists, this magazine provides balance. It provides news we do not find elsewhere - but I sometimes do not know whether to believe it. Its readers are older people and mainlanders who come to Hong Kong.'