None of the publications on sale at the Hong Kong Book Fair have been screened in advance, according to the main organiser, adding that exhibitors must abide by the law.
The fair, hosted principally by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), opens at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and will end next Tuesday.
Sophia Chong, the deputy executive director at HKTDC, was asked at a press event on Tuesday how the organiser would deal with “banned books.”
Chong said the HKTDC had not been screening books before they go on sale at the fair and welcomed all non-violent and non-obscene publications.
If the public file complaints, Chong said they would be handled according to the exhibition’s rules and regulations. She added the HKTDC would only take a record of such complaints though would cooperate with any law enforcement investigation.
“If there is a problem, it will be not up to us to decide whether the content of a book is in violation of any laws,” Chong said, adding that all exhibitors must abide by the law as well as the fair’s rules.
As the fair opened on Wednesday, books featuring speeches by China’s Xi Jinping were placed at the entrance.
David, a 45-year-old frequent visitor, told HKFP that he had learned about how some independent booksellers were rejected from exhibiting, and how an independent book fair was axed: “Although I didn’t plan to visit, some form of censorship is occurring in society – and it will certainly bring some negative effects.”
Independent publishers barred
At least three independent book publishers, including Hillway Press – which was founded by a teacher injured in the 2019 protests and unrest – were refused permission to take part in this year’s book fair.
In response to a previous enquiry by HKFP about the exclusion of the three, the HKTDC said it would not comment on individual cases.
Hillway Press attempted to host an independent book fair along with other booksellers last week but had to cancel the event one day before its official launch, as the venue’s owner accused them of breaching the lease.
Chong said 700 exhibitors would take part in the 2022 book fair, similar to last year’s figure, but the city’s Covid border controls had kept some overseas publishers away.
She said she was confident of large crowds as the government’s electronic consumption voucher scheme encouraged spending, while the new Exhibition Centre MTR Station made visiting the venue easier.
Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.