A new book by a Chinese dissident planned for publication in Hong Kong and critical of China’s president Xi Jinping has been suspended due to pressure.

Yu Jie, a writer based in the US, wrote in an op-ed for Apple Daily that he finished the book Xi Jinping’s Nightmare two months ago. The book was a critique of the Xi regime. It would have been his second book on Xi, after China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping was published in 2014.

“When I finished the draft, I had a discussion with Open, the company that published China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping, and we reached an initial agreement on publishing,” Yu said. “We completed preliminary work such as editing and cover design on it shortly before Christmas. It would start printing on New Year’s Day.”

Yu Jie
Yu Jie. File Photo: Wikicommons.

On January 3, Yu received an email from Jin Zhong, chief editor of Open, that the publication of his book was to be suspended.

“The difficulty of publishing political books in Hong Kong is already in the international spotlight. People in the industry are feeling great fear and pressure; they want to stay out of trouble so that they won’t be the next one [to disappear]. I received many calls from friends and family trying to persuade me. Because of that, we decided after much deliberation to suspend the publication of your work,” Jin wrote.

“I sincerely ask for your understanding. We published China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping, but circumstances have changed, and I am not able to face the huge consequences,” Jin said, adding that he was “deeply sorry”. Jin confirmed to HKFP that the letter was his.

Jin’s concerns are not without precedent. Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo went missing on December 30. He is a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in books on political gossip banned in the mainland. Yiu Man-tin, a Hong Kong publisher who had earlier planned to publish China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping was arrested in Shenzhen in October 2013 for “smuggling ordinary goods”. In May 2014 he was sentenced to ten years in jail. Jin Zhong then took over the publication of the book.

China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao (left) and "Godfather of China Xi Jinping" (right).
China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao (left) and China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping (right). File

Yu says that he understood the unprecedented pressure and potential harm that publishers faced. He contacted five or six other Hong Kong publishers, but none were willing to publish Xi Jinping’s Nightmare.

Yu says that the book will be published in Taiwan in late February, calling Taiwan the “last lighthouse of publishing freedom for ethnic Chinese society”. On whether the Taiwanese version will be available in Hong Kong bookstores, Yu says he is “not optimistic”.

Yu, originally from Chengdu, is a prolific writer with more than 30 books to his name, including China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao – on the former Chinese premier – and other titles banned in China.

He was under house arrest between 2010 and 2012 before he and his family emigrated to the US.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.