Taobao tightens rules over sale of books and magazines published outside China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:41pm

Taobao, the e-commerce platform operated by Alibaba Holdings, has tightened rules over the resale of books and magazines published overseas on the online marketplace.

Starting March 10, Taobao merchants who offer daigou services, the purchasing of books on behalf of customers, or sell such items via their online shops, will be penalised by Taobao, the company said in a notice posted on Friday.

Merchants caught flouting the new rule will be prevented from listing new products or having their online store show up on public searches by Taobao users.

In cases of greater severity, merchants could be punished with an involuntary and permanent shutdown of their online store.

Taobao said its tightened regulations over the sale of such items is in accordance with China’s rules over the import and export of print and audio-visual materials. According to Chinese law, authorities are allowed to supervise such products sent by personal mail or carried into China by individuals for material that may “endanger national security” or cause social unrest.

“When conducting online transactions, users and merchants may not be able to tell if the material published from abroad are legal, and thus this could easily trigger penalties levied on illegal articles,” the notice said.

Taobao’s parent Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Missing bookseller saga will not stop banned works appearing at Hong Kong fair, organiser says

The rule prohibiting merchants selling books published abroad includes those published in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, according to the notice by Taobao.

Although mainland China has a long history of censoring books, films, and internet content for its citizens, Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, does not impose the same restrictions, allowing publishers the freedom of speech and press.

However, between October and December 2015, five men associated with Causeway Bay Books and Mighty Current publishing house went missing. They were later discovered to have been detained in mainland China for “illegal activities on the mainland”, according to Chinese authorities. It is widely believed that their disappearance was linked to the sale of banned books.

Causeway Bay Books, located in a popular shopping district of Hong Kong, had stocked a number of political books that were banned in China for their sensitive nature, and became popular with Chinese tourists who were not able to purchase the books back home.

Shortly after the disappearances of the Hong Kong booksellers, other bookstores, including international bookshop chain Page One, began to pull politically sensitive books from their shelves.