A translated work that apparently censored remarks on politics - such as Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming comparing the handover of Hongkongers to China to "surrendering Jews to Adolf Hitler's Germany" - will be recalled after its writer cried foul over the unapproved changes.
The book's mainland-funded local publisher, Chung Hwa Book Company, agreed last night to withdraw the Chinese edition of A Concise History of Hong Kong from sale. It also apologised to the history professor who penned the work in English.
Professor John Carroll, associate dean of the University of Hong Kong's arts faculty, earlier said he was "shocked and disappointed" about the changes.
"I read and approved the first translation, which was faithful to the original English version. Chung Hwa did not show me the other [censored] version, which I most certainly would not have approved," Carroll told the South China Morning Post.
"Regardless of Chung Hwa's intention, it is unethical … to make changes like these without consulting the author," he said.
"Given that considerably more controversial books are often distributed in the mainland, it's hard to see why mine would require so many deletions."
The English edition included remarks on Hong Kong and mainland politics. For instance, Carroll quoted Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying calling former premier Li Peng "a turtle's egg with a zero IQ" and "a national shame". None of these appear in the censored copies.
A Concise History was originally published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2007. Hong Kong University Press was granted the right to publish its English edition for Asia. The Chinese edition, published by Chung Hwa, came out this month and hit the shelves at this week's Hong Kong Book Fair. But it has emerged that there are two translated works in circulation - a full edition with the remarks found in the English version, and an abridged one.
Chung Hwa said in a statement that the censored books were "samples" to be used solely for negotiating copyrights with mainland publishers and were not intended for sale.
It apologised to Carroll and readers for sending these copies to the fair by mistake. It estimated 37 copies had been sold and said customers could exchange them for the full translation at its shops.
Anthony Tong Tat-hay, an intellectual property lawyer and deputy chairman of the Copyright Tribunal, said Hong Kong laws stated that a copyright owner enjoyed an exclusive right over their work that extended to adaptations, including translations.
"If there is a substantial reproduction judging from the whole book totally … the original author or original publisher could take legal action," Tong said.
THE MISSING LINES
Democratic Party leader Martin Lee compared handing over Hong Kong people to China with surrendering Jews to Adolf Hitler's Germany.
Lydia Dunn, a prominent businesswoman and member of the Executive Council, asked how the British could surrender "British citizens to a regime that did not hesitate to use its tanks and forces on its own people".
[Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Magazine] … called Premier Li Peng "a turtle's egg with a zero IQ" and "a national shame".