Social activist Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, a member of localist party Civic Passion, has stirred up controversy by calling upon followers to resist books written in simplified Chinese characters, which he said public libraries in Hong Kong have purchased in large quantities.

On Saturday, Cheng said on Facebook: “Recently there have been media reports which revealed that, since 2006, the public libraries have purchased up to 600,000 books in simplified Chinese characters, and many of them are children’s reading material, political in nature and sing the praises of the Chinese Communist government. This shows that this sort of brainwashing education has already infiltrated communities and is poisoning our next generation.”

alvin cheng
Alvin Cheng Kam-mun. File Photo: Stand News.

Simplified characters are a set of Chinese characters with reduced numbers of strokes, currently in widespread use in China. However, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao have always maintained their use of traditional characters.

‘Crippled characters’

Cheng also said that there have been accusations of the authorities allocating more space to books in simplified characters on shelves and deliberately hiding books with traditional characters. He then made a call for action to “defend the public libraries” and to ask Hongkongers to take books with simplified characters down from their shelves to put up a resistance against the “red books with crippled characters”.

Cheng then posted a video showing a person throwing the books into the libraries’ bins and hiding them in secret corners, such as in cabinets or behind lockers.


【香港圖書館戰爭 自發將「殘體書」下架抗洗腦】近日有媒體揭發由2006年至今,公共圖書館已購入多達60萬本殘體字書籍,當中不少為歌頌中國共產黨的兒童政治讀本。這反映港共政權的洗腦教育早已深入社區,荼毒香港下一代!且外,康文署轄下各區圖書館的藏書空間有限。有市民更指署方故意收起部分正體圖書,以騰出更多空間混雜殘體字書籍於正體字圖書的書架上,意圖魚目混珠。而且殘體字圖書採用的都是大陸用語,家長稍有不慎,兒童隨手拿起《我愛中國共產黨》等流腦書籍閱讀。孩子不但潛移默化地學習了大陸劣質語文,更連典雅正體字也棄如敝屣漸被「洗腦」。本人發起捍衛公共圖書館行動,呼籲守護香港每一代的市民,自發到圖書館內把殘體字圖書下架,做到遍地開花,對抗染紅殘體書!請參考影片或用自己方式去行動!

Posted by 四眼哥哥(鄭錦滿) on Saturday, 2 April 2016

Pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said that Cheng’s behaviour was selfish and the police should enforce the law, Oriental Daily reported. “I’m quite sure what he’s doing is illegal – when calls for ‘shopping tours’ protests were made online during Occupy, that was dishonest use of computer.” According to barrister Luk Wai-hung, throwing library books into the bin is theft and hiding the books violates the Libraries Regulation, Headline Daily reported.

fa yuen street public library
Fa Yuen Street Public library. Photo: Wikicommons.

A Leisure and Cultural Services Department spokesperson expressed regret about the incident and said that the law does not allow anyone to impede others from using the libraries’ facilities. The spokesperson also said that anyone who wrecks library property will face legal consequences, and that the staff will not hesitate to act if they come across any behaviour that violates regulations on library premises.

Social commentator Winnie, however, defended Cheng’s actions, saying, “Before you accuse [Cheng] of ‘burning books and burying scholars’, please think about how the Communist Party destroys books. The Communist Party doesn’t use fire, it purchases publishers to ensure a monopoly over bookstores and sets the syllabus so that before books are even created, it has destroyed books and ideologies that it does not want to see.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.