Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese magazine censored by Beijing

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Voices of Photography magazine’s latest issue is pictured in a screen grab from the publication’s Web site.

Photo courtesy of Voices of Photography

A Taiwanese photography magazine has been pulled off shelves in China due to its theme of street protests, the publication said on Facebook, adding that all editions with related stories, including back issues, have been confiscated from locations in China that have been importing and selling the magazine.

Voices of Photography (VOP), an independent publication dedicated to contemporary photography, first broke the news on its Facebook page on Thursday, saying that they had been informed by Chinese bookstores of unannounced inspections and the confiscation of the magazine by Chinese authorities at the end of last month.

The integrated Law Enforcement in Cultural Market team, as it is called in China, was the authority said to have undertaken the action.

The theme of the latest issue is “Protests, Activism and Images,” in which the magazine said “the scenes of movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Japan” are brought to life through images, documenting “protest photography and image politics [on] the rise in Taiwanese social movements in the ’70s, then flourishing in the ’80s … all the way to the Sunflower movement in 2014.”

“Not only were physical bookstores affected, but online advertisements carried by Taobao [China’s biggest online marketplace], Weixin [China’s social messaging app] and Weibo [the Chinese microblogging platform] have also all been forcibly taken down,” VOP editor-in-chief Lee Wei-i (李威儀) said yesterday.

“An online bookstore selling VOP was forced to shut down completely,” he added.

The bookstores were told, Lee said, that copies of the magazine were confiscated because they were “illegally imported,” as the bookstores had failed to import them via “legal, state-authorized channels,” instead directly purchasing them from the magazine.

“It is apparent that the move targeted our latest issue featuring activism. A dealer’s copies of the latest issue were seized by Chinese customs when entering the mainland from Hong Kong. The reason given was that the products were [politically] sensitive,” Lee said.

The magazine had been on shelves without interference until this issue, Lee said, declining to specify the exact amount of time to preserve the anonymity of the involved stores.

“While there are no official documents to prove our claim, we’ve been told that Chinese authorities specifically asked for the stores’ sale and purchase records of the magazine,” he said.

The affected bookstores have informed the publication that it would be difficult for them to continue importing and displaying the magazine on their shelves.

“Chinese authorities have further increased the political pressure that would have book distributors undergo self-censorship,” VOP said in a Facebook post.

“Not only has the ban in China had a negative impact on our income and activities, but Chinese readers have also been deprived of the right to access knowledge and the flow of ideas has been obstructed,” it said.

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