Hong Kong Book Fair

Tracing the evolution of Hong Kong Book Fair

From satirists to pseudo-models, book fair has drawn crowds and controversy over the years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 7:49pm

From a modest start in 1990 with 149 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors, Hong Kong Book Fair has grown into, perhaps, the key event of the summer.

Its organiser, the Trade Development Council, expects this year's event, with 560 exhibitors, will draw a million visitors.

Thousands of people queuing up to enter the Convention and Exhibition Centre is a common sight. Inside the venue, manoeuvring is difficult, with crowds packing every booth and visitors carrying suitcases ready to stock up.

Bargain books prove as popular as new titles. Politically themed works often create a stir. The sarcastic comic book Broom-head, which poked fun at the then secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and her hair style, was a hot item at the fair in 2001, with about 40,000 copies sold. Ip responded by saying people who liked it were sexist.

The previous year Silly Old Tung took aim at former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, and went on to become a bestseller. The two books propelled their publisher, Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, to fame.

This year, the spotlight was on I'm No Hero, by Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung, and another book written by the organiser of Occupy Central, Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

Pseudo-models, who attend to help hawk their racy photo books, have stolen the show in the past. In 2009, fans started to line up outside the venue a week before the doors opened, creating chaos and attracting criticisms from parents, educational organisations and religious groups.

People staged protests outside the exhibition centre, arguing the organiser should not allow the sales of such books at the event, as it was supposed to be cultural, educational and friendly to children.

The outcry led to a ban the following year on pseudo-models holding autograph sessions, a move that model Chrissie Chau Sau-na called "idiotic". The council said the change was needed to ensure the fair remained tasteful. Models could still be seen at the fair, although their presence was toned down.

Visitors could even see male models pulling up their shirts to advertise their own photo books.

The question of whether some material is too racy for the fair dates to 1999, when comic publishers, who in the past had exhibited their books in the fair, broke away to host their own festival after the council banned them from selling comic books with indecent content.

The seven-day fair closes on Tuesday.


Male pseudo-models take centre stage at Hong Kong Book Fair

Goodbye scantily-clad female pseudo-models. This year, it's the men who are shedding their kit at the Hong Kong Book Fair - all in the interests of literature, of course. Muscle-flexing fills the pages of photo books, the producers of which say will appeal to both male and female, straight or gay.

Over the past few years, the annual book fair has been a battlefield for female pseudo-models competing for publicity over their racy photo albums. But now it's the men's turn to strut their stuff. Controversial poses and occasional nudity don't bother Dominic Ho Ho-man and King Chiu King-ho, both 25, who released their photo books this year.

"Male celebrities released photo books in the past. Stars like Leslie Cheung [Kwok-wing] were quite bold in their presentation. I don't think it's bad taste," Ho said. Chiu, a model and fitness trainer, said men were now more interested in having a muscular body.

Both male and female fans have bought their books. Asked if they minded becoming idols for homosexuals, they said they had their fair share of gay friends. "Actually I want to explore the male market, no matter straight or gay," Ho said. "There is simply nothing in the market targeting men." Chiu said he was proud of being liked by men: "Gay men are very picky."

Philip To Kwok-ho, who has interviewed Ho and Chiu for his book Youngsters in HK, said many people think that the city's young men are not competitive. Some teenage girls idolise Korean stars or Western models and despise anyone local.

Amy Nip