Beijing's ban on fortune-telling books is a disaster for fung shui masters but a windfall for online bootleggers.
Fortune-telling books, which are traditionally the biggest selling item in China around this time of the year, are under an apparent ban on the mainland following a campaign against superstition ordered by President Xi Jinping.
Popular Hong Kong fung shui masters, including Mak Ling-ling and So Man-fung, have complained that they can no longer get permission to publish books on the mainland.
Taking advantage of the ban, online stores based on the mainland have started to sell fortune-telling books from Hong Kong. A book by Hong Kong fung shui master Li Kui-ming had sold 15,000 copies yesterday on T-mall, the largest online retail platform run by Alibaba.
Ding Feng Ge Flagship Store, an online retailer offering Li's book, proudly states that they are "authentic" and "exactly the same as the Hong Kong version".
However, they are priced at as little as 15 yuan a copy (HK$19). Li's book costs HK$58 at bookstores in Hong Kong.
The books offered online by mainland merchants were most likely pirated copies, said a newsstand operator in Cannon Street, Causeway Bay.
"They can't be authentic. Their prices are even lower than the wholesale price [of HK$40] here," said Wong Bing-shun.
Wong said bootlegging was ruining his business. Fortune-telling books used to be popular among mainland tourists, who are now turning to the cheaper knock-offs available online.
"Some mainland tourists would buy two or three stacks of these books in one go. This year, the taking is much slower," he said.
Wong said he cut his order for Li's book by one-fifth because of the poor sales. Li, Mak and So could not be reached for comment.