Hong Kong Book Fair will notify the police if it receives complaints about exhibits which could be in breach of the Beijing-imposed national security law, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) said on Thursday.

Deputy Executive Director of the HKTDC, Benjamin Chau, said that the Book Fair will not proactively vet exhibits as the fair was a “free and open platform,” but organisers will be asked to comply with the city’s laws.

Hong Kong Book Fair 2019. Photo: GovHK.

The announcement comes ahead of the expected opening of the Hong Kong Book Fair on July 14. The exhibition was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chau said he believes exhibitors will be self-disciplined and will not violate the law, as they “treasure the platform” of Hong Kong Book Fair.

The national security law, implemented in June last year, criminalised subversion, secession, colliusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure.

Self-proclaimed pro-democracy tabloid, Apple Daily, was accused of endangering national security after its founder media tycoon Jimmy Lai, Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, and Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law were charged under the national security law.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The news outlet is accused of publishing more than 30 articles which called for sanctions on the Beijing and Hong Kong governments. Apple Daily published its final edition on Thursday, after its board of directors decided to cease all operations in the city.

Chau did not comment on whether exhibitors will be allowed to sell copies of the newspaper’s last edition.

Jimmy Lai book probe

Meanwhile, the government is investigating after a public library displayed books written by Lai, who is in custody pending trial over national security law charges.

On Thursday, DAB member Michael Yeung posted a picture of Shek Tong Tsui Public Library’s “Librarians’ Choice” shelves on social media showing 10 books written by Lai on display.

In a statement published on Thursday, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said that “with the promulgation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong Public Libraries must ensure that its collections are in compliance with the relevant law.

The Librarian’s Choice shelves in Shek Tong Tsui Public Library. Photo: Michael Yeung, via Facebook.

“The department will seriously handle collections that are suspected of breaching the law and suspend relevant book services. It will also study with relevant departments if any content has violated the law,” the statement said.

Citizen News reported that Lai’s books were taken down on Thursday evening, and a library staff member told them that the content of the books allegedly violated the national security law and had to be removed for vetting.

HKFP has reached out to the LCSD for comment.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.