- Title: Nightmare come true: Hong Kong publishers self-censor under new security law
- Date: 14th July 2020
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (FILE - JULY 22, 2009) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) BOOK FAIR VISITORS ON ESCALATOR VARIOUS OF PEOPLE INSIDE BOOK FAIR
- Embargoed: 28th July 2020 06:36
- Keywords: Hong Kong ban books freedom of speech literature national security law publishing self censorship
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: China
- Topics: Fundamental Rights/Civil Liberties,Government/Politics,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA006CMS507B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: In the last two weeks, Hong Kong publisher Raymond Yeung has hastily made changes to a draft paper copy of a book entitled "To Freedom," replacing the word "revolution" with "protests," tweaking a banned slogan and cutting passages that advocate independence for the Chinese-ruled city.
The changes were hard to make, he told Reuters, but impossible to avoid since China passed a national security law on June 30, making the broadly defined crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
"This is really painful," Yeung said as he flipped through pages of the collection of essays by 50 protesters, lawyers, social workers and other participants in the pro-democracy demonstrations that shook Hong Kong last year.
"To Freedom" is the first political book Yeung has taken on as a part-time publisher. After Beijing introduced the security law, the book's original printer bailed, and two other printers declined, he said. Another printer agreed to take it anonymously, but wants to get a better sense of how the law is implemented first.
Just as demand for political books was surging in Hong Kong after a year of protests, Hong Kong's once unbridled and prolific independent publishers are now censoring themselves in the face of the new law.
Hong Kong authorities say freedom of speech remains intact, but in the past two weeks public libraries have taken some books off the shelves, shops have removed protest-related decorations and the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times" has been declared illegal.
Jimmy Pang, a veteran local publisher, said 2020 is "the most terrifying year" because of the security law and the economic downturn that was already hurting publishers.
He said the law has prompted publishing houses and writers to halt projects while printers, distributors, and bookstores have turned down sensitive books.
For example, Pang believes that a book by political cartoonist Zunzi featuring unflattering caricatures of Chinese leaders such as President Xi Jinping, and former president Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, which was published in 2019 before the law came into effect, could now be deemed too sensitive to put on the shelves.
"In the future, these political-related and sensitive books or anything similar will definitely not be available," Pang lamented, speaking amid piles of books in his back office.
Pang is also a spokesman for 50 exhibitors that plan to participate in this year's annual Hong Kong Book Fair. Originally planned for this week, the fair normally draws some needed revenue for publishers, but was delayed at last minute until further notice due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases around the territory.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organises the fair, has told exhibitors not to display what it called "unlawful books," but did not explain further.
(Production: Joyce Zhou, Joseph Campbell)
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