The banned books now on sale at Hong Kong’s biggest book fair

It’s been just half a year since five Hong Kong booksellers mysteriously disappeared, fueling concern about China’s crackdown on intellectual and press freedom in the autonomous region. Now, Hong Kong publishers are making a quiet show of defiance against mainland censorship.

The Hong Kong Book Fair, which began July 20, is an annual event organized by Hong Kong’s Trade Development Council (HKTDC) that draws crowds of nearly a million. Every year, book lovers eagerly line up for discounts on books in the packed exhibit space, and books that can’t be found in the mainland are a big draw.

This year, a collection of essays by Zhao ZiYang, banned in mainland, will be on sale at the fair, reports the South China Morning Post. Zhao was a Chinese leader who created a rift between the party and himself for sympathizing with the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The collection gives an inside look at Communist Party leadership in the ’80s, according to Reuters.

Here are some of the other “banned books” readers will find in the political books section of the fair this year:

  • 趙紫陽文集 (The Collected Works of Zhao Ziyang), by Zhao ZiYang, published by the Chinese University Press (2016)
  • 香港自決 (Hong Kong self-determination) by Bruce Lam Hong Ching, published by Enrich Publishing (2016)
  • 有病童話 (Sick Tales) by Milk Choy, published by Kind of Culture imprint (2015)
  • 城邦主權論 (On the Sovereignty of the City-State) by Chin Wan, published by Subculture (2015)
  • 不要對我有幻想 (Collection of essays by Ai Wei Wei), by Ai Wei Wei, published by Great Mountain Culture (2012)
  • 香港城邦論 (Hong Kong as a City-State) by Chin Wan, published by Enrich Publishing (2011)
  • 香港城邦論(II)──光復本土 (Hong Kong as a City-State II) by Chin Wan, published by Enrich Publishing (2014)

Hong Kong has long been a destination for mainlanders seeking books censored by Beijing. The Communist Party doesn’t approve of texts on political dissidents, or that criticize party members, among others. But several Hong Kong stores—Causeway Bay Bookstore, whose sellers vanished and then reappeared last year—are famed for their willingness to offer just such sensitive material.

In an email, a HKTDC spokesperson noted that the organizers are not involved in vendors’ selection of books displayed:

The annual Hong Kong Book Fair, organised by the HKTDC, provides a neutral sales and promotion platform that supports the publishing industry and cultural promotion. While we will ensure that the books and products exhibited comply with the laws of Hong Kong, we are not involved in the choice of books or services displayed or sold by publishers.

This post has been updated with comment from the HKTDC.

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