Should Hong Kong books be sold on the mainland? Carrie Lam thinks liaison office can work this out
She says call is inspired by feedback from the publishing subsector of Election Committee
Despite mounting criticism by pan-democrats targeting Beijing’s liaison office in the city, chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pointed to one area the office can address.
This, she argued in an interview with the Post, was to enable Hong Kong books to be circulated on the mainland, where the government exercised censorship of published materials.
“Truly there are things that we need the liaison office to bridge with regards to the central authorities,” she said.
Referring to her campaign manifesto, she added: “There is a little initiative in this booklet, about shu hao. This is the right to publish in China.”
The idea of including some Hong Kong books under shu hao – which in Putonghua refers to the registration for books on the mainland – came from Lam’s meetings with the publishing subsector of the Election Committee, where members told her of their difficulties in entering the mainland market.
“So this is perhaps something the liaison office could help me, as a chief executive, deliver for the publishing sector,” Lam continued. “Where should I go for shu hao? What are the intricacies involved? I don’t want to look stupid in front of the ministries.”
But the prospect of allowing printing houses from a city that had long enjoyed freedom of speech to operate in a jurisdiction notorious for strict censorship is uncertain, industry insiders said.
“I don’t know why the publishing sector is raising this with Lam,” Ngan Shun-kau, former chief editor and now senior adviser to Cosmos Books, said.
“If Hong Kong’s publishing houses are to print anything for the mainland, it must be in simplified Chinese characters, and subject to state censorship,” he added.
Lam proposed that Hong Kong should be entitled to “a couple of thousands” of such books.
Circulating Hong Kong books on the mainland could be a controversial business.
In 2015, five booksellers from Causeway Bay Books – known for publications that were critical of the central government – mysteriously disappeared from the city only to surface under mainland custody. One of them, Lam Wing-kee, later made explosive claims of kidnap.