An independent book fair has been axed a day before its official launch, after the organisers were allegedly accused by the venue’s owner of breaching their property lease.
Raymond Yeung, ex-teacher and organiser of the HongKongers’ Book Fair, said the property owner said the event had already “drawn too much attention on social media,” and accused them of subletting the premises to other publishers and endangering visitors. The landlord therefore sought to terminate the contract, Yeung alleged.
“Even though the authorities have been saying Hong Kong people still have the freedom to publish, the reality is that people do have certain fears and pressure, leading to these irrational decisions,” Yeung said.
He said the venue had hosted other small-scale markets before, and the owner was aware of their intention to hold a book fair before signing the contract. “I have no idea why their attitude changed so rapidly,” said Yeung.
Yeung choked up when talking about the effort that had been put into the event. He said that Hillway Press – a publisher founded by Yeung known for publishing politically sensitive books – was previously willing to withdraw from the fair, if it was able to continue.
Yeung said they have not received any warnings from the police thus far, but a pro-government think tank and protest group – Politihk Social Strategic – had advertised online for helpers to assist with monitoring the book fair for legal violations.
“We would have welcomed these people to come and check our books, as I have full confidence that all our books are legal,” said Yeung. He said his book fair is never a political event.
A number of independent publishers have been rejected from participating in the flagship Hong Kong Book Fair this year, including Hillway Press, Sun Efforts and Humming Publishing. The fair called in the police last year over exhibits that were thought to potentially breach the Beijing-imposed security law.
Hillway Press initiated HongKongers’ Book Fair in response to the publisher rejections. The now-axed event had attracted around a dozen exhibitors.
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