News of leftist Hong Kong bookstores an old chapter

Links between them and Beijing’s liaison office in the city were revealed years ago, and those who are still suspicious can now order their reading material online anyway

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 4:36am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 4:36am

There is fake news, old news and ancient news. I guess the idea is that none of them really count as “news”. But how do we define ancient? Well, I am 52, and my children consider me ancient.

Here’s a piece of ancient news. Chung Hwa Book, Joint Publishing (HK) and Commercial Press, which together run dozens of bookstores across the city, are effectively mainland entities owned by the state.

Ever since I was in school, everyone in Hong Kong knew those publishers and bookstores were leftist. Even their old store decorations had a mainland feel, until they upgraded and modernised in the 1990s.

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Somehow, it’s now a big revelation from RTHK’s current affairs programme Hong Kong Connection that Sino United Publishing, which is behind those three big publishers, is tied through complicated ownership to Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

Even Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was forced to jump in to say that the work of the liaison office in Hong Kong should not be interfered with as long as it is law-abiding.

RTHK’s ace reporters did a lot of digging and investigation, and in the end, even managed to get Lee Cho-jat, former chairman of Sino United Publishing, to admit to the liaison office connection.

But this is old news, if not ancient. Readers of my column know I am not a big fan of Apple Daily and sister publication Next Magazine. But give credit where credit’s due.

Back in 2015, both publications exposed the intricate connections between the liaison office and Sino United, along with several mainland entities such as Xin Wenhua (Hong Kong) Development Company Limited and Guangdong Xin Wenhua.

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In fact, according to Apple Daily and Next Magazine, such publishing ties extend to the newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

Now that was real news at the time, though hardly big news – we all knew they were either mainland state entities or tied to them.

But Apple and Next laid out their actual ownership structure, which was interesting.

Still, even if it’s all old news, you can argue whether the mainland control of major publishers poses a problem for the city.

This is a legitimate question, even though it is a long-standing one dating back to the British colonial era.

In the old days, if you didn’t like leftist bookstores, you visited independent ones. Now, you can order online.