One of the largest book fairs in Asia is due to kick off on Wednesday with a record number of exhibitors, but the rainy weather may dampen attendance figures. The Hong Kong Book Fair’s organiser still expects about 1 million visitors, similar to last year’s turnout. “I think the rain will not put out the Hong Kong people’s passion for reading,” said Benjamin Chau Kai-leung, deputy executive director of the Trade Development Council, which organises the fair at the convention centre, in Wan Chai. But the venue will close to the public if there is a typhoon signal of No 8 or above. The annual event, running from Wednesday to July 25, has attracted 670 exhibitors from 37 countries, up 4.7 per cent on last year. There will be 320 cultural activities including talks and forums. Notable speakers will include Liu Xiaoqing, a renowned mainland Chinese actress, and Zhou Meisen, scriptwriter on anti-corruption-themed TV series In the Name of the People , which took the mainland by storm earlier this year. Book fair organiser vows no political censorship yet urges exhibitors to ‘comply with the law’ The fair will stage a travel-themed exhibition, featuring works, photos and souvenirs gathered by a number of travel writers including the poet Ye Si, writer Xi Xi,explorer Rebecca Lee and former war correspondent Zhou Yijun. There will also be a section devoted to award-winning photographs from the magazine National Geographic, showcasing pictures taken both locally and overseas. In recent years the fair, which has run since 1990, has been criticised for becoming too commercial and shifting away from its focus of promoting literature. But Chau defended the fair and said the comments were “not fair”. “We need to provide business incentives to encourage companies to actively participate in the fair,” he said. It would be even harder to promote reading culture if the fair failed to attract enough people, he added. To lure more visitors, there will be discounted tickets for people who get there early and those who wish to go back in after their first visit. While a standard adult ticket is HK$25, visitors will only have to pay HK$10 if they enter before noon. People who buy the regular tickets on the first two days can enjoy free admission on July 21, 22 or 23, after 5pm. Book fair ticket holders will also be able to enter the inaugural Hong Kong Sports and Leisure Expo – from July 21 to 25 in the same venue – for free.