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Hong Kong Book Fair

Cultural revolution, Zhao Ziyang and Mao Zedong: Hongkongers and mainlanders buying politically sensitive books at Hong Kong Book Fair

Booth operators note greater interest in volumes on Hong Kong and mainland China, with many buyers from across the border although some browse rather than buy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 11:14am

More politically sensitive books about Hong Kong and mainland Chinese politics are being sold at the Hong Kong Book Fair, publishers say, with some noting many of the customers are from across the border.

This comes after the high-profile disappearance of five staff members of Causeway Bay Books, a store specialising in the sale of such books which are banned on the mainland. One of the sellers, Lam Wing-kee, has since said he was detained in mainland China for eight months.

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Carmen Kwong Wing-suen, editor-in-chief of Up Publications, a small independent publishing firm with a pro-democracy background, estimated that sales had increased by about 30 per cent from last year.

While the booth carries publications ranging from history to children’s fiction, Kwong noted that books on politics were the most popular this year.

“Books on the Hong Kong government always sell well, but this year even those on the mainland government are doing well,” she said.

The editor also believed that a lot of the customers were from the mainland as they spoke Putonghua.

Ao Benli, who is in charge of a booth that features publications on the Cultural Revolution, noted that about 30 to 40 books were sold each day over the past six days of the fair.

While the books contain content that is critical of former leaders like Mao Zedong and Jiang Zemin, Ao noted that most of the buyers were from the mainland. He added there were also some university students purchasing books.

Still, some sellers at the fair said some mainland visitors chose to read the books instead of buying them as they were not allowed to bring them across the border.

Books on local politics were also popular among Hongkongers.

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Wong Yeung-tat, founder and leader of localist group Civic Passion, noted a 20 to 30 per cent increase in sales from the booth for Passion Times, the group’s publishing arm, with most customers being locals. The publisher features books ranging from local politics to satire.

Mr Lum, who was seen browsing a politically sensitive book on the mainland, said he enjoyed reading such books and wanted to know more about the country, which he frequently visits for work.

A collection that particularly caught his attention was the four-volume Collected Works of Zhao Ziyang. Zhao, who became premier in 1980 and Communist Party chief in 1987, was considered the mastermind behind an ambitious blueprint for democratic reform that called for the separation of the party and state.

Aside from politics, local culture was also a point of interest, with many books about Hong Kong on the bestseller list for Sino United Publishing, a group of local publishers including Joint Publishing and Commercial Press.

The top selling books included a volume on natural scenery in Hong Kong and an interactive children’s activity book about exploring old Hong Kong.

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Tse Lik-ching, deputy general manager of the group, said while she noted more people coming to the fair this year, which she attributed to the good weather, sales were not “as high as expected”. She also pointed out people were buying fewer books per transaction than last year.

Tse believed this was because the economy was not so good, meaning that visitors were more careful with their money.

The annual book fair runs until Tuesday.