Yiu Man-tin, a prominent Hong Kong-based publisher of books often critical of the government in Beijing, is set to face trial in Guangdong Province five months after he was detained during a short visit to the mainland.
The 73-year-old chief editor of the Morning Bell Press publishing house, whose name is also spelled as Yao Wentian, has been charged with “smuggling ordinary goods”, according to his lawyer Ding Xikui. Yiu is set to face trial at the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court on Monday.
In October last year, Yiu was detained with seven bottles of undeclared paint he brought from Hong Kong across the border to Shenzhen. If he is found guilty, his sentence will be based on the total value of the alleged smuggled paint, as determined by the court. Lawyer Ding declined to say how much import tax Yiu has been charged with evading.
Yiu’s family said they see his detention and the charges as retaliation for his publishing activity. In an open letter to President Xi in February, his son Edmond Yiu pleaded for his father’s release, saying that Yiu suffered from heart disease and asthma. Yiu has been held at two hospital facilities since his formal arrest in November, said his lawyer.
“The real reason for my father’s arrest is that he published books critical of the Communist Party leaders,” wrote Yiu's son. “Why else would they repeatedly question him about details on publishing and distribution?”
Yiu had been in discussion about publishing a scathing book on China’s head of state titled Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping, which has since been published by another Hong Kong-based publishing house.
The arrest has succeeded in intimidating other Hong Kong publishers, the book's author, US-based exiled writer Yu Jie, told the South China Morning Post.
"A dozen publishers shied away from publishing the book [after Yiu's arrest]," he said. "This is a blatant violation of Hong Kong's freedom of the press."
Yiu has also published Yu's Hu Jintao: Harmony King and accounts of the Tiananmen massacre.
The Sichuan-native moved to Hong Kong in the 1980s. He set up his publishing house in 2006.
"it is very difficult to understand how so much suffering can be justified by a book that has not yet even materialised," Bao Pu, the founder of the Hong Kong-based New Century Press publishing house, wrote in a commentary for the Post in January.
"No one expects the mainland's war on Hong Kong publications to stop," he wrote. "The truth is that there is nothing the Hong Kong media can do to stop it."