eThere are many places in Hong Kong where you can watch as freedom dies a slow death. One of them is the book fair, which always takes place in July. The number of political China books has been declining there for years. Not because the Hong Kong government banned them. The thing is more complicated.
"In the past, many visitors came from mainland China to the fair," says publisher Bao Pu. They bought those books that can not be found elsewhere in China: historical treatises on the Tiananmen massacre and the Cultural Revolution, biographies of Chinese leaders, but also gossip about the alleged sex life of the party elite. Their thirst for information kept an entire industry alive. In the meantime, however, customers are no longer coming from the mainland. "It has become a big risk to pass the border with books, especially at the time of the book fair," says Bao Pu. Therefore, the exhibitors are no longer interested in showing such literature. Because the Hong Kong youth is not interested in Chinese history. According to a Hong Kong University study, only 16 percent of Hong Kong's under 30 consider themselves Chinese.
If someone like Bao Pu thinks of giving up, that makes one sit up. The man is like the guardian of China's suppressed memory. In his small publisher New Century Press he has been publishing documents and diaries for years, which contemporary witnesses secretly send him. His sources include officials on the highest levels of power. His best-known book is the journal of former Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, who secretly recorded thirty cassettes in house arrest. Zhao Ziyang was disempowered in 1989 for opposing the bloody suppression of student protests. Bao Poo's father was his closest associate.
Half a million confiscated books
Until five years ago, the publisher had many customers. But then the Communist Party targeted the Hong Kong book market. With the operation "Operation Southern Hill", it tightened the controls at the national customs border, which separates the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from the rest of China. Beijing Airport proudly announced that it had confiscated half a million books. In the meantime, hardly any books are being delivered by mail.
Finally, in 2014, five Hong Kong booksellers were abducted by the Chinese National Security, which had earned their money with half-silk scandal books. The fate of booksellers, one of whom is still in detention, intimidated the whole industry. Perhaps also the printing company Asia One, which announced the publisher Bao Pu 2016 the long-term cooperation. Just because. At first, Bao Pu found another supplier, a small family business. But this soon got cold feet. "They said 2019 was a 'sensitive year' and they could not afford to lose their business." So Bao Pu was looking for a print shop outside of China. Even she has now turned down after only three books. "They said there was too much attention." Because the three books appeared on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Among them "The Last Secret" with the original minutes of the party session in which the leading officials, one after another, found the bloodbath of 4 June right.
Sang and soundless disappeared publishers
Currently, Bao Pu is getting as many manuscripts as never before. Of aging officials of the generation of Xi Jinping or their children who "want to preserve the past". There are still brave people who contact him on Twitter to buy his books privately. But the sale is so lame that the publisher wonders if he can continue. If he gives up, he would be one of many independent Hong Kong booksellers who have disappeared without singing and singing.
The market is now dominated by three large publishers owned by the Chinese government. The publishers also operate their own bookstores, in which one seeks political literature in vain. On the bookcases of street vendors in Hong Kong you can still find catchy-looking titles with the likeness of Xi Jinping and other political leaders. But most do not keep what they promise. Occasionally, behind the gaudy cover picture, there are boring party propaganda. In other cases, the party has turned the tables and made dirt over their opponents produce. An attractive book about the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo with fictitious content. Alleged revelations about the leaders of the Hong Kong democracy movement. "Dubious publishers are trying to confuse the mainland Chinese," says Bao Pu. He started collecting such literature. "But it's just too much."
Five years have been enough to put an anarchic, critical Hong Kong book market on the defensive. "What is that freedom when you can not publish anymore?" Bao Pu asks bitterly. Hong Kong is the only city in the world where freedom has a sell-by date. It expires in 2047. Until then, the official promise of the Chinese leadership to grant the former British colony a high degree of autonomy. What happens after that and whether it will take so long, the opinions in the city go far apart. Bao Pu is one of the pessimists: "Hong Kong's days are numbered. I do not know what's better, a quick or a slow death. "But many of the protesters who are currently taking to the streets in Hong Kong see things differently. They face the seemingly unstoppable process. And maybe produce new literature.
(TagToTranslate) Zhao Ziyang (t) Xi Jinping (t) Communist Party (t) Scandal book (t) Censorship (t) Hong Kong (t) China