Hong Kong bans nine books from public libraries under national security censorship law

2021.05.08

Nine books were banned from Hong Kong’s public libraries on Friday under the national security law’s provisions on censorship, Apple Daily has learned.

The ban, issued by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department on Friday, requires librarians to immediately take down the nine books, including two volumes by former pro-democracy lawmakers Albert Ho and Tanya Chan and three others by political commentator Bruce Lam.

One censored Chinese-language publication, “Hong Kong Nationalism” by the 2013 Hong Kong University Students’ Union, was earlier the target of a high-profile denunciation by former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who claimed it advocated independence for Hong Kong.

Apple Daily has seen an internal LCSD memo that says: “Riding on the policy line as steered, we have to take immediate action to the effect of conducting a review exercise on the library collection in relation to the national security law.”

An LCSD spokesperson said public libraries must ensure that their collections comply with the requirements of the national security law, adding that the nine publications were dealt with in a “serious” manner.

The book-banning has sparked questions about the scope of the national security law, which Beijing introduced to the former British colony last June. The law effectively criminalizes a level of dissension once tolerated by city authorities and further abridges Hong Kong’s limited civil liberties.

This was not the first time that the LCSD has reviewed books on national security grounds. Last July, a month after the law was implemented, at least nine books authored by pro-democracy activists and politicians were removed and have since been barred from being loaned out, including one by the now-jailed 24-year-old activist Joshua Wong.

Also last July, the LCSD and other government departments first investigated the nine books that were banned this week, looking for legal violations, the spokesperson explained.

“Of course it is impossible [for my books] to endanger China’s national security,” said Chinese-American writer Jie Yu, who had two publications pulled from the shelves this time, adding that he was infuriated by the LCSD’s move.

Jie said both his books criticize Chinese society, culture and politics, but neither includes any content promoting violence, crime or terrorism.

Former lawmaker Ho said “I don’t think there is one part in my book that touches on the national security law. The pro-Beijing camp has been talking about those issues in the legislature.”

Ho lamented that, in the current political environment, every government department is worried about being criticized if it fails to do enough to limit the scope for pro-democracy voices.

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