A Hong Kong bookstore that sold books critical of Chinese leaders, resulting in staff and shareholders being persecuted by Beijing, is expected to reopen in Taipei after the Lunar New Year holiday, its founder, Lam Wing-kee (林榮基), said on Friday.
Lam, 64, who founded Causeway Bay Books in 1994, fled to Taiwan two months after the Hong Kong government proposed a controversial extradition bill in February last year, fearing that he would be extradited to China under the bill to face charges of running an illegal business.
From September to November, he raised nearly NT$6 million (US$199,302) through an online fundraising Web site to reopen the bookstore, which he said would serve as a space “for free souls.”
He has leased a space in a building near the Taipei MRT metropolitan railway’s Zhongshan Station, after abandoning his hope to open the bookstore in Ximending (西門町), a popular shopping district, due to the high cost of rent, Lam said.
“Although it is on the 10th floor, the store space is very much like the one in Hong Kong,” Lam said, adding that he has signed the lease and paid rent, and the store is being decorated, including with custom-made bookshelves.
The store would likely open after the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Jan. 29, he said.
Lam said he hopes that it will become a place where help is given to Hong Kongers who have moved to Taiwan since protests began in the territory in June.
Recalling the old Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong, Lam said that he originally hoped to have his store in Ximending, because “it is bustling, like Mongkok in Hong Kong.”
On the other hand, Zhongshan District (中山), where the bookstore is to be situated, “has a more academic feel, like Causeway Bay in the past,” he said, adding that he was satisfied with the new location.
Lam was one of five Causeway Bay Books shareholders and staff members who disappeared into Chinese custody at the end of 2015.
He was released on bail and allowed to return to Hong Kong in June 2016 to retrieve a hard drive with a list of the bookstore’s customers on it.
Instead, he jumped bail and went public, detailing how he was blindfolded by police after crossing the border into Shenzhen and spent months being interrogated.
Lam in April last year said that he fled to Taiwan because he feared being extradited to China under the controversial extradition bill.
The bill has since been scrapped in the wake of mass protests that have developed into a pro-democracy movement.
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