Bookshop chain pulls controversial titles linked to missing Hong Kong publishers

Bookshop chain pulls controversial titles linked to missing Hong Kong publishers

A bookshop chain in Hong Kong has been pulling political titles from its shelves following the disappearances of five publishers, known for producing 'gossipy' books about China's political elite. 

Singaporian English-language focused bookshop chain Page One, which has outlets in both HK and on the mainland, reportedly began withdrawing the "sensitive material" from its shelves late November, when the first of the publishers went missing. 

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported confirmation from a salesman at Page One’s Tsim Sha Tsui store that it had stopped selling "banned books" more than a month ago, while a clerk at one of the chain's six store's at HK airport recently confirmed to the Guardian, despite selling the popular books up until recently, that the titles would now no longer be stocked. A clerk told the paper: “I know the books you mention. The politics books. We have sold out on those titles and will not be receiving any new stocks. 

"We are not going to sell them again. I think you can understand.”

The banned books were once bestsellers at Page One’s Hong Kong outlets, said the SCMP.

The UK Foreign Office earlier this week said the disappearances of staff from publishing house Mighty Current and its retail arm Causeway Books, one of whom is British, was "deeply concerning". A handwritten letter from Lee Bo, who was reported missing on Friday (1st January), has been met with sceptism, with English PEN expressing concern it may have been written "under duress".

Carles Torner, executive director of PEN International, has now joined the UK Foreign Office in expressing his concern.

"We are very worried about the fate of these five individuals connected with the publishing industry," he said. "We know that China has all too often resorted to enforced disappearances to pressure critical voices to recant or ‘confess’ to alleged ‘offences’ when they have merely been expressing themselves freely. The authorities must come clean as to whether or not they are holding any or all of these five and release them if they are held in connection with their freedom of expression."