Books on unrest suspended amid publishing fears over security law

Top News | Maisy Mok 26 Jun 2020

Maisy Mok

Publication of several books about last year's unrest has been suspended as white terror fears rise from the national security law, a local publisher says.

Jimmy Pang Chi-ming said Greenfield, a bookstore with "the largest collection of sensitive books," will not take part in this year's book fair despite its active role for three decades.

Pang, president of the publishing house Subculture, said at least two publishers have decided to suspend publishing several Chinese-language books this year in fear of the national security law.

Exhibitors and publishers at the 31st Hong Kong Book Fair - to run from July 15 to 21 - were told to be "self-disciplined" and "watch out for any unlawful books on display" by the deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Benjamin Chau Kai-leung.

"The whole industry is scared," said Pang. "Some said they don't want to accept any interviews and even put their publications on hold as they are uncertain about the national security law." Pang added the publishing industry is getting increasingly fearful as they do not know where to seek help if their books violate the "unclear national security law."

The industry expects bookshops that sell "sensitive books" will be affected by the law.

Nevertheless, Subculture did not halt publication of any of its books.

It will take part in the fair for the 31st time, selling books including those related to the June 4 crackdown and political commentaries.

Three pro-establishment groups have threatened to send pictures of book fair stalls that sell items which "threaten national security" to the Ministry of State Security. Those groups include DQ Action, Politihk Social Strategic and Johnny Patriotic 101.

"We are worried that they might disturb our business operation and become their target," Pang said.

He hopes HKTDC, the book fair organizer, would stop any conflicts occurring in the venue.

Meanwhile, a scene in a documentary featuring an artist playing China's national anthem was cut after the national anthem law came into effect on June 12. It is an example of how the new law - which bans people from insulting the anthem - is curtailing artistic creativity in Hong Kong, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

Evans Chan, a Hong Kong-born but US-based producer behind the film We Have Boots, said he removed a segment after distributors told him they may face legal problems following the passing of the national anthem law earlier this month.

The scene featured footage of local artist Kacey Wong playing China's March of the Volunteers on an accordion as he sat inside a red metal cage for a piece of performance art titled Patriot.

We Have Boots was first screened at the Rotterdam film festival earlier this year.

maisy.mok@singtaonewscorp.com

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