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Publishers Warn of Censorship in Hong Kong

FILE - A worker walks past a stack of books by former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong, titled "Conversation with Chen Xitong," at a publisher's warehouse, one day before the launch of the book in Hong Kong.

Book publishers are decrying a rise in censorship in Hong Kong, saying book stores are returning books tied to authors who have been involved in the pro-democracy protests.

In recent weeks, authors and publishers say censorship is growing in Hong Kong, with bookstores under increasing pressure to edit their selection of books so that they do not offend the central government in China’s mainland.

The editor-in-chief of Up Publications, Carmen Kwong Wing-suen, said her company had hundreds of books returned by Sino United Publishing through its subsidiaries Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book and Commercial Press.

“We are just a tiny little publishing house. We have no bargaining power to do anything," she said.

Rising trend

Kwong said a publication she co-wrote on the Occupy Protests had received orders for only 28 copies instead of the normal practice of 200 copies. She said most of the books recently rejected by the publisher were not on political topics.

Former reporter Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, now a professor of journalism at Baptist University, said the rejection of books by publishers sympathetic to the pro-democracy movement is part of an increasing trend of censorship in the city.

“I think looking at the book censorship case in a way its a reflection of the differences between censorship in Hong Kong and the censorship we have under one country two systems," he said.

"Because they cannot censor books and the media directly. There is no censorship system because we are under one country, two systems. And so they have to find creative ways to limit or stop voices that are hostile to the Communist Party.”

While Sino United Publishing rejected books from Up, it has recently carried books critical of the democracy protests. One title called Looking Into Occupy Central criticizes Lui for negative reporting on the mainland.

Mainland sensitivity

The book also alleges that a group called the Independent Commentators Association receives funding from a U.S. group called the National Endowment for Democracy.

David Bandurski, a researcher at the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project, said, “I can feel that there is increasing censorship in Hong Kong, no matter if it is in broadcast or in print media.

"Because I have a lot of friends working in the industry who discuss with me quite a lot, sometimes when they want to do some kind of sensitive news, especially on mainland China then their boss will use all kinds of excuses to block them or give them more difficulties in doing so.”

Sino United Publishing operates 51 stores through its subsidiaries, and it says each store owner makes his or her own decision about which titles to carry.