The Associated Press reported today that booksellers at Hong Kong’s national book fair are heavily curating their books to avoid violating a national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing in June 2020. The wide-ranging law criminalizes, among other acts, any act of undermining government power or authority—punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Since June 2020, authorities have used the law to arrest over one hundred pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong. Now, booksellers are afraid to bring government-critical books to the book fair due to potential punishment. “Every vendor will read through the books that they are bringing to the book fair to see if there is any content that might cause trouble,” Jimmy Pang, president of Subculture publishing house, told the Associated Press. “We don’t want to get into trouble that will affect the operation of the book fair, so we self-censor a lot this time. We read through every single book and every single word before we bring it here.”
These newly limited book options have disappointed some of the book fair’s visitors. Said one, Alex Chan: “Is the book fair still a place we can buy any kinds of books? Is Hong Kong still a place with freedom of speech or freedom to publish?”