Political publications feature at HK Book Fair 2019 amid city’s extradition bill crisis

18-Jul-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Books on politics featured prominently at a fair in Hong Kong on Wednesday as the event, one of the world’s largest, opened amid a storm brewing around the city’s embattled government.

Avid readers queued up for hours before the 10am launch of the week-long Hong Kong Book Fair 2019 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. There are 686 exhibitors showcasing a wide range of publications, with last year’s instalment drawing 1 million visitors.

Although the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the event organiser, had declared a theme based on science fiction, the unrest over the now-suspended extradition bill fuelled interest in political books and those related to the hated legislation.

The bill would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition deal, including mainland China. In the past month, protests have erupted across the city, including two massive marches, one of which drew an estimated 2 million people onto the streets.

Among books at Wednesday’s fair was Freedom Is, produced by White Paper Publishing, a subsidiary of media company Black Paper, featuring 71 short stories on events between June 9 and July 1 over the ongoing bill crisis.

Karen Fok, White Paper’s publishing manager, said: “The whole movement comes from the deep concerns of Hong Kong people about their freedom.

“That’s why we chose this title and made it theme of our booth at this year’s fair.”

She added that all revenues from sales of the book would be donated to the June 12 Humanity Fund, which was set up by a number of pro-democracy public figures to provide financial aid to protesters injured and arrested in the movement.

On that day, there were violent clashes between protesters and police outside the legislature.

At least four more marches are in the pipeline in the coming week at venues such as Central and Admiralty, which are about 1km away from the book fair.

Amid strong anti-mainland sentiments, protesters earlier vowed online to target Sino United Publishing, a state-owned conglomerate. But by 12.30pm on Wednesday, there were no signs of any demonstrations at the fair.

Form Three student Chris Chung came directly to the White Paper booth and bought a copy of Freedom Is. “I have been part of the anti-bill movement and would like to know more about others in it,” he said.

I have been part of the anti-bill movement and would like to know more about others in it

Chris Chung, Form Three student

He added that although his parents disagreed with his participation and few schoolmates cared about the protests, he continued to join marches “because I want to do something for Hong Kong”.

Another book on politics at the fair was Our Golden Era, written by Chinese University political scientist Chow Po-chung and presented by Oxford University Press China.

Chow dedicated his book, in which he documented movements of civil disobedience and his academic reflections on the city’s pro-democracy drive, to “every righteous and kind Hongkonger in this era”.

In his preface, Chow wrote: “Many Hongkongers may ask why they have to fight against the Chinese Communist Party when history tells us that they will almost certainly lose… Because they have such deep affections for Hong Kong and they believe the city will no longer be itself if its core values are lost.

“Among these values, freedom and dignity are the most important, as I have observed.”

Not all shoppers were into politics, however.

Transport worker Ikky To, who is in his 30s and has religiously been first in line at the fair since 2012, secured his usual spot in the queue after arriving at 7pm on Tuesday.

“I would like to get an autographed copy of Lam Wing-sum’s latest novel,” To said, referring to the local author known for her romance-themed work which has been adapted into films.

A civil servant, 28, who only gave her name as Chan, said she came with a budget of between HK$1,000 and HK$2,000 this year.

“I’m hoping to look at magazines and buy them as gifts for my friends this year,” she said.

I’m just here for the books. Not everything has to be about politics

Chan, civil servant

“I don’t plan to oppose anything. I’m just here for the books. Not everything has to be about politics.”

Another shopper, Gao, 57, spent about HK$520 at booth Subculture Limited. Among her purchases was journalist Johnny Lau Yui-siu’s memoir of Beijing’s Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989. In Hong Kong, annual vigils have taken place over the incident.

“These books are a part of Hong Kong, and as Hongkongers we should be aware of what’s happening in this city,” Gao said.

However, she said she did not support the plan floated by protesters against the extradition bill to boycott stalls owned by state publishers.

“These protesters can voice their opinions, but it’s not good to obstruct booksellers doing their business.”

Meanwhile, Deng, a logistics worker from Shenzhen, said he crossed the border at 6am to get to the fair.

“I am a fan of classical Chinese novels and would like to hunt for some books that I really like,” said the 27-year-old man, who intended to spend 2,000 yuan (US$291) on coveted titles.

Deng said he was aware of restrictions on shipping books back to the mainland, where there was heavy censorship, but, armed with a suitcase and plan to stay for a night in the city, he said: “I will try to carry the books back myself.”



Category: Hong Kong

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