Fair opening asprotest fear fizzles

Local | Stella Wong 18 Jul 2019

The Book Fair limped along on its opening day yesterday, but exhibitors blamed economic woes and the hot weather rather than social unrest.

No protester showed up yesterday despite people online suggesting disobedience action at stalls of central government liaison office-controlled Sino United Publishing stores, the Commercial Press, Joint Publishing, and Chung Hwa Book.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also gave the opening ceremony a miss "due to a change in schedule," according to her office.

Lam was initially scheduled to attend the ceremony for the 30th Book Fair yesterday afternoon and people online had expressed hope of "talking to her directly."

Representatives from both Joint Publishing and Chung Hwa Book said attendance was less than the first day last year, but believed it was unrelated to the call for civil disobedience.

Still, hundreds of book lovers queued up for the opening at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Ikky To, who made it eighth in a row by being the first again, said he had set up camp since Tuesday night, hoping to get a limited edition signed book by local author Lam Wing-sum.

Some observed that there were fewer choices for English-language books this year.

Jason Lang, a 45-year-old consultant who has lived in Hong Kong for 19 years and came with his 12-year-old daughter, said: "English books seem to get less every year, unfortunately."

An 81-year-old Canadian who has lived in Hong Kong for 30 years had no complaints about the few books in English.

"In previous years, this book fair was like a dumping ground for unsold, unwanted English books," he said. "I think they are using the space more sensibly. So far all the English books they are selling this year are of good quality."

Vincent Yiu Ka-fung, merchandising manager at Confidence Services Centre, said the area for English booths is the same as last year, but smaller compared to 2017, due to the closure of Metrobook and Page One bookstores, and a lack of newcomers in the market.


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