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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong localist binned library books in an act of resistance, court told

Political radical tells magistrate he became angry after noticing abundance of volumes printed with simplified characters used in mainland China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 8:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 5:50pm

A Hong Kong localist radical staged an act of resistance by throwing nine children’s library books into a rubbish bin because they were printed with the simplified characters used in mainland China, a court heard on Tuesday.

Alvin Cheng Kam-mun told Kowloon City Court that he wanted to send a message to others, urging them to resist what he referred to as “lame characters” invading the city’s libraries.

Closed circuit television cameras captured Cheng dumping the books on the fourth floor of Kowloon Public Library in Ho Man Tin on March 29 last year.

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The activist, who ran unsuccessfully in the Legislative Council elections last year, pleaded not guilty to one count of theft.

Simplified Chinese characters – which often have fewer strokes and a less complex shape – are the default setting on the mainland, while Hong Kong and Taiwan use traditional ones.

Cheng said that since children would not be able to tell the difference at a young age, the simplified books might affect their cognitive learning and mislead them.

He said the “effects and poisonous influences” went beyond just the different shapes.

“Among them, a lot of terms used by Hong Kong natives have been ‘banditised’,” he said, referring to the Putonghua terms used in such books.

Three days after the alleged theft, the court heard, Cheng posted a video on his Facebook page in which he could be seen stacking the nine books on the floor before disposing of them one by one in the bin. He called for others to remove simplified Chinese books from the shelves.

Debate over Chinese characters is sensitive issue for Hongkongers

His foray into the matter, he testified, stemmed from news reports suggesting about 600,000 simplified Chinese-language books had been added to Hong Kong’s public libraries.

He told magistrate Wong Sze-lai that he went to the library closest to where he lived to check for himself.

Cheng said he felt “shocked and angry” when he noticed the abundance of simplified Chinese books, which he estimated accounted for a tenth of the stock, calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money.

He also moved the books around to make the simplified Chinese books less accessible.

The case continues before Wong on August 15.