A Taiwan-owned bookstore in Hong Kong said it has no more in-store copies a historical book arguing that the eight-nation invasion of China at the turn of the 20th century was justified, amid reports in media backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that it had removed the book from its shelves.
“The Eight-Nation Alliance Was a Just Cause,” penned by Canada-based author Liu Qikun and published in democratic Taiwan, was reportedly “removed” by Eslite bookstores in Hong Kong, the CCP-backed Global Times newspaper reported.
The pro-CCP South China Morning Post cited an Eslite employee as saying the book was sold out, but may not be fully restocked due to “the current situation.”
The book “glamorizes the invasion of China by the Eight-Nation Alliance,” the Global Times reported, and was unavailable in Hong Kong branches of Eslite on Monday, although copies were still listed on the chain’s website, according to The Standard newspaper.
The controversy comes amid a citywide crackdown on dissent that has seen dozens of former opposition politicians and high-profile journalists detained under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat told journalists she had received hundreds of complaints that the book was on sale in Hong Kong, and that publications that “villify and distort” the CCP’s version of history wouldn’t be tolerated.
Chao Cheng-min, who heads the China Times publishing house that published the book, said there was a reason that the book was published in Taiwan in the first place.
“Taiwan has freedom of the press and of publication,” Chao told RFA. “We have always respected different views among our writers, and believe that readers can make up their own minds.”
“But we also respect the different laws and customs in our different regional markets.”
Hong Kong seen as a warning
Author Liu Qikun was designated an “ultra-rightist” during the political purges of the 1950s under late supreme leader Mao Zedong, and later fled to Hong Kong. He emigrated to Canada in 1988 and has written in favor of constitutional democracy in China since retiring from a career in software development.
The disappearance of the books from Hong Kong bookstores came after warnings from high-profile commentators regarding the CCP’s global ambitions in recent days.
U.S.-based historian Miles Yu said that what is happening in Hong Kong should be a warning to the rest of the world.
“It’s not just a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, but the for the whole world … and shows that the CCP isn’t a credible regime,” Yu told a Christian foundation event on Hong Kong, at which he shared a platform with former Trump administration secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
“I think Pompeo had the right attitude towards China, which should be to distrust and verify,” Yu said, citing China’s abandonment of the promises made in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered bilateral treaty governing the handover of the city from the U.K. to China in 1997.
“Hong Kong is major example of that,” he said, warning that the CCP will be seeking political domination of its neighbors in Taiwan and southeast Asia next.
Pompeo told the California-based Hong Kong Freedom Beacon Inc. foundation on Oct. 17 that “appeasement was not going to work” in the face of the CCP-backed crackdown in Hong Kong, a conclusion that led the U.S. to pass a raft of legislation and executive measures from November 2019, removing the city’s special trading status and imposing requirements for political reviews and sanctions on officials responsible for the national security crackdown.
“It appears now destined to be just another communist city … when the CCP knocked down and smashed Hong Kong’s freedoms, it also shattered any illusions anyone might have about the regime’s trustworthiness,” he said.
“But the world is still watching,” he said, to enthusiastic applause.
Wider Chinse goals
Veteran journalist Ching Cheong said Pompeo had reversed the mistakes made by previous U.S. administrations in their dealings with China over many years.
“Just look at how many promises the CCP has failed to keep, or broken, since the regime came to power in 1949,” Ching said. “I think there are eight or 10 major instances of this.”
Joanna Chiu, a journalist and author who has reported on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement for many years, recently told the Tom Lantos Congressional hearing on Hong Kong that the city’s seven million people may never hold a large protest again.
“My research examines how Beijing’s bid for control over Hong Kong is part of a wider picture,” Chiu told the Oct. 14 hearing.
“The same set of party and state agencies, such as the United Front Work Department and Ministry of State Security, responsible for putting pressure on civil society groups and political entities in Hong Kong, has a similar mission all around the world,” she warned.
The national security law criminalizes speech and actions deemed to amount to secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign powers, and enabled the setting up of a national security office under the direct control of Beijing to oversee the implementation of the law, as well as a Hong Kong headquarters for China’s feared state security police, to handle “special cases” deemed important by Beijing.
It also bans speech or actions anywhere in the world deemed to incite hatred or dissatisfaction with the CCP or the Hong Kong government.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.