Former premier Li Peng did not have the absolute right to decide on the publication of his diaries because of the ambiguous nature of copyright under party rule, a Hong Kong publisher said yesterday.
Hong Kong New Century Press had planned to release Li's diary to Hong Kong bookshops yesterday but was thwarted by copyright issues. Publisher Bao Pu said he had been aware of the copyright problem at the very beginning, but had still decided to try to publish Li's book.
'The copyright of the Chinese leadership is very ambiguous,' he said. 'If the author, who has a certain official post, wants to publish something like a diary, he really has to go through the publication procedure to get approval.'
Bao said Li had sent his typeset book, featuring selected diary entries from April 15 to June 24, 1989, to all politburo members in 2004. However, his application was turned down, Bao said.
The Tiananmen Diary of Li Peng, which Li originally named The Critical Time, exposed sharp divisions in the inner circles of the Communist Party leadership on how to handle pro-democracy protests in 1989, and the confrontation between then party secretary Zhao Ziyang and Li.
'But there is a loophole. It isn't defined whether it's legal or illegal to publish outside China,' Bao said.
Bao was forced to abort the publication of Li's book on Friday, just four days before it was to have hit the bookstores. He said he was convinced to do so when mainland institutions provided information related to the copyright on Li's diaries.
'I was approached by them several times,' Bao said, refusing to reveal their identities. 'I can only tell you that it's not Li Peng who approached me.'
But Bao, speaking at the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China last night, said he was not disappointed because internet users could read the simplified Chinese version of Li's book online.