Hong Kong public libraries quietly removed from shelves books deemed politically “sensitive” under a national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
More than 100 titles – many of which refer to the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 – have reportedly disappeared from Hong Kong’s public library system since the law came into force on July 1, 2020.
While the city’s leisure and cultural services department has compiled a list of more than 70 books deemed to be against the law, which criminalizes public criticism by Hong Kong and Chinese authorities, regular readers have spotted many more, according to local media. .
News stand, Ming Pao The English-language newspaper and Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) have listed books by jailed 2014 protest leader Joshua Wong, as well as dozens of books on the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square and the massacre in June 4 by the People’s Liberation. Army that ended them.
While some books on the pro-democracy movement of 1989 remain on library shelves, the number of copies has been reduced, forcing readers to order them through an interlibrary loan program, the HKFP reported on November 21.
Among the “missing” books are The factual account of a research of June 4 Victims (Vol. 1 – Vol. 2) by Ding Zilin, Founder of the Tiananmen Mothers Victims Campaign Group.
Many books quietly disappeared from libraries after reports in the CCP-supported media, claiming to have violated the National Security Law.
As the National Security Police raided and effectively shut down the pro-democracy movement Apple Daily newspaper and founder of Jimmy Lai’s Next Digital Media Empire in June 2021, more than 30 books referring to the newspaper and Lai were removed from libraries in Hong Kong after a complaint from a pro-CCP politician.
Books by Occupy Central founder and former law professor Benny Tai have also been withdrawn following criticism from the Beijing-backed newspaper. Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers.
The Hong Kong government has previously stated that the Department of Leisure and Cultural Services “regularly cancels dilapidated, damaged and obsolete material, as well as items that no longer have any value as reference or research resources.”
“If any content is found to violate Hong Kong National Security Law or any other relevant legislation, it will (…) be taken seriously and suspended from our collection,” he said. in response to previous media inquiries.
“They do what they want”
Veteran publisher Jimmy Pang, who said the National Security Act forced publishers and writers to suspend projects and printers, distributors and bookstores to reject sensitive books, said his Sub-Culture publishing house had had at least one title removed from libraries in May.
“In the past we had clear boundaries … but now it’s not based on whether we understand or respect [a set of rules]”Pang said.” They’re doing whatever they want now. “
He said that the removal of Lai’s books on food and business was particularly strange.
“How did Jimmy Lai’s books on food and how to get ahead in business violate national security law?” ” he said. “Another book by [journalist] Allan Au was based on a doctoral thesis completed before 2017 … so how do they determine how far back? “
“We don’t know how many copies have been taken off the shelves,” he said, adding that the practice was already having a “chilling effect” on Hong Kong’s once vibrant publishing industry.
“They will have to look at every page, every word of every book to meet the government’s demands,” he said.
Au recently told Stand News that he was not surprised his work is now disappearing from libraries.
âMany voices have disappeared or been silenced in the current climate,â Au said. “Will libraries only offer books on food, travel and romance, or official history books in the future?” “
Repeated attempts to contact the recreation and cultural services department for comment went unanswered at the time of writing on Wednesday.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.