Starting today, local book dealers can import and sell books and magazines from China, whose importation and trading had been strictly prohibited since the KMT authoritarian era. The open display of such publications, however, is still banned.
According to Lee Yi-chen (李懿真), fourth division director of the Publication Department under the Government Information Office (GIO), four kinds of magazines from China will be allowed for importation and trading here.
"They are nature and ecology, geology and tourism, culture and art or leisure and entertainment," she said. "The characters, however, have to be converted from simplified Chinese to the complex form before the magazines can be sold at bookstands."
Books used solely for academic purposes at colleges or universities can be imported and sold with their simplified Chinese characters intact.
Under previous laws, individuals, academic institutions, libraries and government agencies could only import books from China after obtaining the approval of the GIO. The publications had to be used for academic purposes.
An individual could bring in or mail 40 different books from China, while an academic institution, library or government agency was eligible to apply for permission to import 100 different kinds of books.
Liang Jin-hsing (
"Basically, all regulations on publications for academic purposes are unnecessary, meaningless and should be abrogated," Liang said.
Liang, general manager of Wan Juan Books (
"When I started to sell books imported from China some 10 years ago, I went through hell because the Taiwan Garrison Command visited me almost everyday," Liang said. "The biggest single fine I've ever received was NT$200,000."
According to Liang, there are about 20 legal importers bringing in 100,000 to 200,000 publications from China, with around 100 bookstores selling them. Those numbers rise to between 400,000 and 500,000 if illegal importations are accounted for.
"When there's a demand, there's a supply," Liang said. "Politics mean little to us businesspeople, what matters is whether we can make money."
Fang Shou-jen (
"We understand the government's concerns, but it doesn't make sense to ban the importation and trading of Chinese publications while no other country in the world does," he said.
Fang said that some of the new regulations do not make sense and are difficult to implement.
"For example, we have to obtain a certificate from the Chinese publisher confirming that the publication imported doesn't violate the intellectual property rights of any other publication here," he said.