Hong Kong Book Fair's International Cultural Village shows a world in microcosm

Israel, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan granted booths; pro-Palestinian group plans protest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 4:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 4:23am

To the casual observer, the Book Fair's International Cultural Village attraction is much like the world in microcosm. There are pictures of Mount Everest, wandering Hare Krishna disciples, videos of Japanese cats performing tricks and controversy over Israel and the Palestinians.

Among the 31 countries and territories represented are Israel, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia, which have been granted their own booths for the first time.

The Israel booth showcases more than 50 books translated into Chinese or English, including Trumpet in the Wadi - a novel by Sami Michael that explores tensions between Arabs and Jews in the 1980s.

"Hopefully people will be interested in our books and come again next year," said Israeli Consul General Sagi Karni. "Translated books reflect the spirit of a nation. When you read a book you get to know how people from that country think. Literature is important - it can tell us a lot about a society."

Not all visitors shared his enthusiasm, however.

Adeel Malik, a 30-year-old Hongkonger who fronts Friends of Palestine in HK has pledged, along with 10 others, to hold "Free Palestine" protests near the Israel booth every day between 6pm and 6.15pm. "We realised the consul general would have a booth and thought it would be a good opportunity to create more awareness of the state of Israel's continuing crime against humanity in Palestine," said Malik.

The group plans to hand out leaflets encouraging visitors to boycott Israeli products.

"Of course, Hong Kong is still a democracy - everyone has a right to reflect their views," replied Karni. "But I find it odd that these people are representing Hamas - who are recognised globally to be terrorists. Perhaps they are not aware of this. Even so, these people could gain a lot more by picking up a book and reading it."