Sun, Mar 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Causeway Bay Books to reopen by June: former manager

SAFE HAVEN:Lam Wing-kei said he would have liked to reopen the censorship-defying store in Hong Kong, but could not do so, as he is not allowed a bank account

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Causeway Bay Books founder Lam Wing-kei yesterday speaks at a news conference in Taipei, at which he discussed a plan to reopen the store in the city.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Time

Former Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) yesterday discussed his plans to reopen the bookstore in Taipei, saying that he would not be intimidated by China’s warning against advocating Hong Kong independence.

The bookstore, which used to operate in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay, was raided in March 2015, purportedly for publishing books that were deemed embarrassing to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Five people involved in the bookstore’s operations, including Lam, were arrested by Chinese authorities and detained for almost eight months.

The bookstore has been closed since bookstore shareholder Lee Bo (李波) disappeared on Dec. 30, 2015.

Lam originally wanted to retire, but decided to give himself something to do after friends in Hong Kong and Taiwan encouraged him to relaunch the bookstore in Taipei, he told a news conference in the city yesterday.

Lam was in June 2016 released by Hong Kong police in exchange for him providing Chinese authorities with a database of customers who had purchased books at his store.

He said he would have liked to reopen the bookstore in Hong Kong, although that is not feasible, as he would no longer be allowed to register a business under the name “Causeway Books” there.

Moreover, he and other Hong Kongers affiliated with certain political parties cannot open bank accounts, which would also prevent him from conducting business in Hong Kong, Lam said.

While Taiwan is liberal and respects human rights, Lam there are other “potential concerns,” he said.

Taiwanese do not seem interested in learning about the CCP, he said, comparing how books on the CCP in Hong Kong bookstores are conspicuously displayed and sell quickly, while such books in Taiwanese bookstores often languish on the highest shelves, which many Hong Kongers find unbelievable.

Lam said he plans to reopen the bookstore in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) shopping district in May or June.

He expects to register the business with the New Taipei City Government this month and to begin surveying commercial properties in Ximending, he said.

Starting next month, he would leverage his firm’s capital by opening a notarized bank account, and soliciting shareholders in Taiwan and Hong Kong, he added.

Asked whether Beijing’s recent warning through Hong Kong media that the Taiwanese government should not encourage Hong Kong independence made him worry about reopening his bookstore in Taipei, Lam, who has openly supported Hong Kong independence, said he is not intimidated.

“Should we refrain from doing whatever they tell us not to?” Lam asked.

“Running a small business is our right,” he said.

Despite reports in recent years about large bookstore chains pulling books considered harmful to the CCP after allegedly coming under pressure from Beijing, there are independent bookstores across Taiwan that have shored up Taiwan’s civil society, Chung Hua University associate professor Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) said, adding that he welcomed Causeway Bay Books’ entrance on the scene.

“Hopefully, in the course of cross-strait exchanges, Chinese tourists will visit Causeway Bay Books in Taipei and buy a few books that they can no longer get in Hong Kong,” he said.

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