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                                                                                                                          knocks on my door one day, which is                                       As a former US lawyer himself,
                                                                                                                          the scariest scenario,” he says.                   “                   Wan is most concerned about validity
                                                                                                                             White terror over independent                                       and accountability of the law. “The en-
                                                                                                                          bookstore sector sparked public out-  The act of thinking              forcement of the law is very much up
                                                                                                                          cry in 2015, when Lam Wing-kee,                                        to the political leadership. There is no
                                                                                                                          owner of Causeway Bay Books and          or bookselling                accountability and no transparency,”
                                                                                                                          five of his coworkers went missing.                                    he says.
                                                                                                                          Lam later informed the public that he  itself is a way of re-             Wan views vagueness of the law

                                                                                                                          was detained by the Chinese authori-  sisting the political            as a way to generate a chilling effect.
                                                                                                                          ties in Guangdong province for more                                    “There is no clear guideline and I
                                                                                                                          than 400 days for selling books critical   suppression. All we         think it is intentional,” Wan says. “The
                                                                                                                          of China’s leaders. Lam flew to Taiwan                                 government wants us to set our own
                                                                                                                          in April 2019 and reopened his book-  can do is to carry               red lines and instil fear and self cen-
                                                                                                                          store, Causeway Bay Books, in Taipei                                   sorship among members of the pub-
          Daniel Lee reading books at Hong Kong Reader Bookstore  ‘New Arrivals’ Book Collection of Hong Kong Reader Book-  on April 25, 2020.                             on.                   lic in terms of not saying things that
                                                                                     store                                   The missing booksellers case has                                    might possibly offend the regime,”
                aniel Lee, owner of Hong       The national security law, intro-  from public library shelves, triggering   put Hong Kong under the spotlight of                                 Wan adds.
                Kong Reader Bookstore, an  duced by the Beijing government to  fears and concerns over possible im-       international media, provoking wide-               ”                      Wan thinks there is obviously a
        Dindependent shop featuring  prevent, stop and punish acts of se-       pact of the law on freedom of expres-     spread concern over Hong Kong’s de-                                    certain level of self censorship: “Peo-
        books on humanities and social sci-  cession,  subversion of state power,  sion.                                  clining freedom. With the national  cialises in English language books,  ple may still agree with a lot of what
        ences, is one of many booksellers in  terrorist activities, and collusion with   Fear over Independent Booksell-  security law imposed, booksellers are  shares Lee’s worries. “They did that to  they want to publish but cannot do so.
        Hong Kong who is concerned about  foreign forces that endangers national              ing                         worried that similar incidents will  the Causeway Bay booksellers without  At the same time, they have a business
        the implementation of national secu-  security, took effect on June 30, 2020,   “There is zero guideline from the   take place again - only this time it is  a law in place. Now that there’s a law  to run, they have families too, so they
        rity law.                           the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the  government, and that is worrying,”    carried out according to the law.   in place and they have the whole ap-  are concerned about their own safety.”
           “When the bookstore first es-    city’s handover to China from British  Lee says. “Until now, there is no of-                                     paratus to enforce the law, ... I don’t
        tablished in 2007, Hong Kong was  rule.                                 ficial announcement as to what con-                Chilling Effect           see those tactics going away, if any-    Persisting in Resistance
        still a relatively free and open so-   Following social unrest brought  tent might possibly be considered as         Wan, owner of Bleak House Books,  thing, it is going to be more common,”   Despite the depressing circum-
        ciety. I never thought there would   by the anti-Extradition Law Amem-  threats to national security. All we can   an independent  bookstore  that spe-  Wan says.                       stances, both booksellers are com-
        be (a concept of) banned books (in   dment Bill (anti-ELAB) movement  do is to pay close attention to how the                                                                            mitted to upholding what they think
        Hong Kong) one day,” Lee says.      since June 2019, implementation of  law is being enforced,” Lee adds.                                                                                is right. “I don’t think we need to do
           In  view  of  the  legislation,  Lee   the law has caused public outcry over   Lee, who still sells political ti-                                                                     anything especially brave. We just
        says that he has reluctantly re-    Beijing’s tightening control on the  tles such as 1984, On Tyranny and                                                                               have to keep doing business as usual,”
                                            semi-autonomous city.
                                                                                books about the anti-ELAB move-
        moved books about “Hong Kong           Soon after the law was introduced,  ment, says his biggest concern over                                                                           Wan says.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Citing a quote from German phi-
        Independence” from his store shelves.   books  written  by prominent  pro-  the law is its vagueness. “What if I sell                                                                    losopher Hannh Arendt, “There are
           “Publishers have filtered content   democracy figures, including at least  books about Mao Zedong or Marx-                                                                            no  dangerous thoughts; thinking  it-
        mentioning independence and re-     nine titles by localist Horace Chin  ism which also include issues about                                                                             self is dangerous”, Lee explains that he
        phrased polically sensitive terms.   Wan-kan, activist Joshua Wong Chi-  freedom of speech? Would it be con-                                                                             firmly believes in the power of books.
        Some  book  printers  have  refused  to   fung and former lawmaker Tanya  sidered illegal?” he laughs. “We would                                                                         “The act of thinking or bookselling it-
        print books related to independence   Chan Suk-chong have been removed  never know, not until the government                                                                             self is a way of resisting the political
        even long before the law (was intro-                                                                                                                                                     suppression. All we can do is to carry
        duced) in light of the political cli-                                “                                                                                                                   on,” he says.
        mate,” Lee says.
           “I  did  not  expect  independent  We would never know, not until the gov-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reviewing Textbooks
        booksellers to become guardians of       ernment knocks on my door one day,                                                                                                                 Apart from books sold in book-
        freedom  of  speech,”  Lee  says.  “Ten                                                                                                                                                  stores, publication of textbooks is also
        years ago, we did not take politics into      which is the scariest scenario.                                                                                                            facing similar situation. According to
        consideration. But now, running an                                                                                                                                                       a circular issued by the Education Bu-
        independent bookstore and selling                                                                                                                                                        reau on July 3, 2020, schools are urged
        books is already like taking a (politi-                                                                                                                                                  to review curriculum  and teaching
        cal) stand,” Lee adds.                                               ”                                               On Tyranny being sold at Bleak House Books. (Photo courtesy of Albert Wan)
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