A scholar has claimed that courier service SF Express had refused to deliver his book because of its political content. It is the second such case involving the company within a week, though it has said it was unable to verify the incident.

Chow Po-chung, a political philosophy professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he was told of an incident where a person in Hong Kong tried to send a book Chow had written to South Korea. A staff member at SF Express refused because “the content was sensitive,” according to Chow.

Chow revealed the incident on Facebook on Monday, calling the restriction “unbelievable.”

Chow Po-chung, with his book Philosophical Notes on The Little Prince. Photo: Citizen News.

“A week ago, one of my readers in South Korea told his friend in Hong Kong to send my books – Philosophical Notes on The Little Prince and To Care – to him. The person at SF Express flipped through To Care, and said it could not be delivered because the content was sensitive,” Chow wrote.

This followed a similar claim by author Leung Man-tao on Sunday. Leung said that SF Express refused to send three books from Taiwan to Hong Kong due to “recent content restrictions placed by the Chinese government on articles and books.”

However, unlike Leung’s case, Chow was not directly involved with the delivery order at SF Express.

Chow told HKFP that he was alerted by the affected reader in South Korea, and decided to publicise the information after seeing Leung’s news. According to Chow, the person trying to send the books in Hong Kong was turned away at the counter.

‘Unable to confirm’

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said that Chow’s case showed that the situation was not an isolated case. He called on SF Express to clarify whether there was political censorship, and said that it was an “irresponsible business practice” for the firm to disrupt customers’ delivery orders without prior notice.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, SF Express said it was unable to confirm if the incident occurred because of the lack of specific information on the delivery order.

“As for the delivery of printed matter to Korea, we will accept a delivery order unless it was illegal, such as copy infringement,” a spokesperson said. “We typically provide kind reminders to our customers, to make sure that the object being delivered can arrive smoothly.”

Photo: SF Express Facebook.

According to the company’s website, service users are allowed to send books from Hong Kong to South Korea except “pornographic and/or obscene materials.”

Chow said the affected book To Care was a collection of his writing over the past ten years.

“The book touches on many topics, including university education,” he said. “The only ‘sensitive’ part is the last part, where I wrote down my thoughts on the Umbrella Movement.”

Chow said he understood why SF Express would not deliver politically sensitive books to China, but said he was “mystified” over why the restriction would apply to a book sent from Hong Kong to South Korea.

SF Express was founded in 1993 in Guangdong province and is one of China’s largest couriers.

Holmes Chan

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.