Books banned in China because of their politically sensitive content are popular in Taiwan, enjoying a long shelf life in bookstores and chalking up good sales.
Since former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang’s (趙紫陽) Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (國家的囚徒－趙紫陽的秘密錄音) was published in Taiwan in 2009, 80,000 copies of its Chinese-language edition have been sold, according to Hung Hsiao-wei (洪小偉), a public relations manager at the book’s Taiwanese publisher, China Times Publishing Co.
Hung said a book usually has a shelf life of three months in Taiwan, but the book of the edited transcripts of Zhao’s thoughts, transcribed from audio recordings, has seen new sales each year since its release.
Zhao was the Chinese Communist Party general secretary when Chinese students protested in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. He was removed from the post for opposing military action against the protesters and remained under house arrest until his death in 2005.
There were two reasons for the phenomenon, Hung said: The continuous demand from researchers and students entering the field of China studies in Taiwan and purchases by Chinese visitors following improved Taiwan-China ties.
With Eslite bookstores and Taipei 101, which is home to the 1,089m2 Page One bookstore, being popular places to visit for Chinese tourists, many visitors from across the Taiwan Strait often buy books there that are not available in China.
While in the early days, Chinese tourists had to remove the books’ covers to take them back to China, Hung said Chinese customs officials are now less stringent in their checks on passengers’ luggage.
There are now even lists of must-buy books in Taiwan among Chinese microbloggers’ online discussions, which started when Taiwan began allowing independent Chinese tourists into the country last year.
Additionally, Hung said the increasing interest of Taiwanese readers in China, a growing power that is now the world’s second-largest economy, especially as the country is about to begin the process of a handover of power later this year, also helped boost sales of Zhao’s book.
A book also published by China Times Publishing on Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is set to become the next leader of China, sold 20,000 copies after it hit the market in November last year, Hung said.