Causeway Bay Books may move to Taiwan

Hong Kong’s embattled independent bookstore Causeway Bay Books will move to Taipei, says founder Lam Wing-kee.

It will open in the second half of the year with funding coming from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, the 62-year-old has told Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review (NAR).

Popular with Chinese tourists, the bookstore sold banned books about Chinese politics and leaders, and more lately books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party leaders.

However, the bookstore was shut down in 2015 following the disappearance of five of its employees. Four of them later surfaced in China to make written and video confessions of fictional crimes. Still in custody is Gui Minhai, a shareholder of Mighty Current, the publishing company that owns the bookstore.

Lim himself disappeared while working at the bookstore one night in October 2015, emerging eight months later from China. He was released on condition he would provide a hard disk containing the names of customers who bought his books, but instead he revealed details of his eight-month ordeal, which included constant monitoring, interrogations and a forced “confession” on TV.

‘Like a symbol’

Speaking about the move to Taiwan, he told Taiwan News it was 90 per cent sure. “The only thing is to find the right people and place. It will be more like a symbol – a symbol of resistance – just like Causeway Bay Books was before.”

Despite an offer of asylum in Taiwan, Lim plans to continue living in Hong Kong and will serve only as an adviser for the new bookshop without being involved in its daily business.

He visited Taiwan in February and says he found a much greater respect for publishers there as well as a thriving community of independent bookstores.

According to Reporters Without Borders, Hong Kong’s press freedom has declined precipitously since the island returned to Beijing’s control in 1997. It has plunged 55 places in 15 years to 73rd in the world, while Taiwan’s latest ranking is 45th in the world and top in Asia.

Lam says he was impressed with how neighborhood bookstores have become gathering places to foster and spread ideas by hosting seminars, book clubs and film screenings. He hopes the active independent bookstore community in Taiwan can serve as a model for Hong Kong.

“They can help sow the seeds of new ideas in Hong Kong, whether it can be a new philosophy of governance or independence – what I mean is not just greater political independence, but also mental independence.”

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