October 14, 2014

Get your books written by Chinese supporters of Occupy Central, while supplies last (which might not be for long)


Pictured: a Chinese bookstore. Not pictured: a fax machine. Image via Wikipedia.

Pictured: a Chinese bookstore. Not pictured: a fax machine. Image via Wikipedia.

Another week, another book ban—Texas, you and China should hang out. Let us go then you and I, to check out the latest round of repression and censorship of Chinese publishing, cliched as stories like this may be

Reuters confirms that eight authors have had their books banned by the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Speculation is that they were targeted in the ongoing government effort to crack down on support for Occupy Central.

The other writers whose books were banned include Zhang Qianfan, a constitutional law expert at Peking University and a critic of the Communist Party’s grip on the judiciary. Zhang did not answer calls to his mobile phone. Books by history scholar Yu Yingshi, Taiwan writer Giddens Ko, Hong Kong television personality Leung Man-tao and columnist Xu Zhiyuan were also banned, according to the regulator. It did not say why and did not respond to a faxed query by Reuters.

Forgetting for a second how frustrating it must be to fax an inquiry to someone who clearly has no plans on answering (they gave you a fax number, buddy), this ban comes alongside arrests of prominent scholar Guo Yushan as well as poet Wang Zang, as reported in the Guardian. Wang was detained in Beijing before he could perform a reading in support of the Hong Kong protestors; the charge is basically “possession of an umbrella“. Guo pissed off the government by aiding the escape from China of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng several years ago, so while he may not share any affiliation with Occupy Central, it’s possible that his detention was just thrown onto the docket with this latest round-up of pro-Occupy figures. The crime with which he’s charged, of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, seems vague enough to indicate this. The Taiwanese culture minister, when asked to comment on the ban of a Taiwanese author, punted.

But there is a silver lining to this depressing thunderhead of authoritarianism: South China Morning Post reports that the banned books are still available at certain bookstores, as well as in a “GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE BANNED” (note: translation not exact) promotion on e-commerce site DangDang. It’s fair enough to market your product based on an assumption of future scarcity—and any sales bump will be at least a small comfort for the banned writers—but I doubt that the detention of artists and intellectuals will stop, as popular support for Hong Kong and Occupy Central continues to grow.


Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.