Books by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled territory’s public libraries as they are being reviewed to see whether they violate new national security legislation, a government department said yesterday.
The sweeping legislation, which came into force on Tuesday last week at the same time its contents were published, punishes crimes related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison.
Hong Kong public libraries “will review whether certain books violate the stipulations of the National Security Law,” the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the libraries, said in a statement.
“While legal advice will be sought in the process of the review, the books will not be available for borrowing and reference in libraries,” it said.
A search for books by young advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan (陳淑莊) on the public libraries Web site showed the books, including Unfree Speech, co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.
“The national security law ... imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding that his titles “are now prone to book censorship.”
The national security legislation has been criticized by pro-democracy advocates, lawyers and foreign governments, who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The day after the legislation came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.
On Friday, the local government declared the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” illegal, and a man who had driven a motorcycle into police officers during a protest and carried a flag with that message was charged with terrorism and inciting secessionism.
Hong Kong and Beijing officials have repeatedly said the legislation would not curb freedom of speech or the media, nor any other rights in the territory.
The legislation, they said, only targets a few “troublemakers.”
It is unclear how many books are under review.
Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) were still available, according to the online search.
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