There was an inspiring air of revolution at this year’s Hong Kong Book Fair. Independent and major publishers showed no fear in openly promoting politically radical texts that brazenly criticized Chinese government and its penchant for censorship.
This is no small feat for the largest and most significant literary event in China. More than a million attendees pour through the fair each year, with massive coverage from major media outlets. It’s also a bold statement considering that last year’s fair saw five employees from two politically dissident publishing houses ‘mysteriously’ go missing.
Image courtesy of Hongkongfb
All were returned in random succession, but the incident shined a light on the oppressive qualities of Chinese government. The controversy seemed to have inspired Chinese publishers, who did not back down from selling ‘forbidden books’ at this year’s fair. Defending this decision, the event’s organizer said that “Hong Kong is a free and open place…no matter what political issues the books talk about, they can be sold at the book fair.”
Image courtesy of BBC
While some commended these publishers for their bravery, others are more cynical about the state of book publishing in China following the kidnappings. Bao Pu, of New Century Press, is quoted as saying:
“Printers are not willing to print politically sensitive books, throughout the Hong Kong printing industry. This is a very serious situation. The printers are deciding what can be read…I think that Hong Kong is no longer a place that supports independent publishing.”
If last year’s kidnappings are any indication, Chinese publishing is at a critical juncture, and it’s unclear how the problem of censorship will be rectified. If there is a silver lining, it is the fact that the organizers and attendees of the book fair seem to be on the right side of history, standing up to censorship.
Featured image courtesy of hktdc