Columnist Leung Man-tao said that a delivery service in Taiwan – SF Express – refused to send three books from Taipei to Hong Kong, citing “recent content restrictions placed by China on articles and books.”

Leung wrote about the incident on Sunday in an Apple Daily column, where he expressed surprise and concern over possible censorship. Local lawmaker James To had also asked parties involved in the case for clarification.

Leung Man-tao
Leung Man-tao. Photo: Cloud.

Leung said he took a trip to Taipei last week, and that he had asked the concierge at his regular hotel to make arrangements for books he bought to be sent to Hong Kong.

The hotel later told him that three books could not be sent. These were: Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination by Robert Bickers, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left by Yuval Levin and an issue of Taiwanese academic journal Intellectual History.

According to Leung’s column, the hotel staff told him the decision had been made by delivery service SF Express and had nothing to do with the hotel.

“If this was really SF Express’s decision, was dedicated staff checking books at their Taipei delivery centre? Or was it the delivery person checking the books one by one at the hotel?” Leung wrote.

“Does [SF Express] have a list of books they cannot transport?… Or do the staff members make the decision according to their own judgment?”

SF Express
Photo: SF Express Facebook.

A spokesperson for the company told Taiwan news organisation Central News Agency that they would not confirm if the company had handled Leung’s case. He added that the company follows each country’s customs requirements.

The spokesperson went on to say that SF Express’s Taiwan presence had been funded by Hong Kong investors, and was not a branch of SF Express’s mainland company. SF Express was founded in 1993 in Guangdong province and is one of China’s largest couriers.

HKFP has reached out to SF Express Taiwan for comment.

‘Taiwan’s One Country, Two Systems’

Leung told HK01 that the books rejected by SF Express were part of “three big bags”, which contained around 30 books in total. Two days after the incident, the hotel staff sent the rejected books to Leung via Taiwan’s postal service, he said.

Leung said he was surprised by the incident because the books did not fall under categories usually considered “sensitive” by mainland China. Some of the books in question even had translated editions which are published and sold in the mainland, he said.

“After this encounter, even I am wondering if One Country Two Systems had already been implemented in Taiwan,” he wrote.

James To
James To. File photo:

On Monday, Democratic Party lawmaker James To urged Taiwan and Hong Kong governments to clarify whether there are books under an import-export ban.

To said he believed the incident was a case of self-censorship, and also asked SF Express to explain their legal liability in failing to send the books.

According to SF Express’s Taiwan website, service users cannot send materials that are “harmful to China’s political [sic], culture and morality” from Taiwan to mainland China.

No such condition was listed for delivery from Taiwan to Hong Kong.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.