Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the government should not intervene in the China Liaison Office’s work if it is legal, when asked about the office’s control of major bookstores in Hong Kong.

RTHK’s Hong Kong Connection reported on Monday that the central government’s organ controls a Guangzhou-based company, which in turn controls Sino United Publishing (SUP).

SUP owns more than half of the bookstores in Hong Kong, including 53 branches of Commercial Press, Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book Company and Cosmos Books. It also owns nearly 30 publishing houses.

File Photo: Apple Daily.

SUP’s honorary president Lee Cho-jat told RTHK that the group is owned by the state, but said the Liaison Office does not directly manage SUP.

Lee denied there was a political mission behind the office’s control of the bookstores. He said the stores promote culture and are run by commercial standards.

Asked if the Office’s control of Hong Kong bookstores harms the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, Lam said it was difficult to comment as she did not have the relevant information.

“But the China Liaison Office is the organisation of the central government stationed in Hong Kong – it has to buy properties in Hong Kong, or do things that are in line with its operating purposes,” Lam said during a regular press conference on Tuesday.

“As long as it is legal, we should not intervene,” she added.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Screenshot.

The office’s ownership of the publishing giant was first reported by Next Magazine in 2015.

According to an Apple Daily report at the time, the mainland company, Guangdong Xiwenhua Development, also owns the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers, as well as Bauhinia Magazine and Upknowledge Magazine – all of which are published in Hong Kong.

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Kris Cheng

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.