Taichung’s Formosa Bookstore (豐原三民書局), a local landmark for pro-democracy advocates for 50 years, is to shut its doors for good in September, proprietor Lee Chin-hsiang (利錦祥) said on Friday.
The cultural icon has been operating at a loss due to rising Fengyuan District (豐原) rents and a declining interest in brick-and-mortar bookshops, said Lee, who co-owns the store with his wife, Chen Tzu-mei (陳姿媚).
“The commercial environment for bookstores is to the point where survival is difficult even for chain stores, let alone independent bookstores,” Lee said. “Keeping the Formosa Bookstore open is causing my old employees undue hardship.”
Photo: Chang Hsuan-che, Taipei Times
However, finding a new location for the store has not been ruled out, he added.
Lee and Chen in 1978 took over Hua Gu Book City, in business more than 10 years, and renamed it the Formosa Bookstore.
Known for selling dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) journals behind the back of the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, the bookstore became a meeting place for dissidents before and after the Formosa Incident.
The incident occurred when Formosa Magazine organized a demonstration commemorating Human Rights Day, as a way of demanding democracy in Taiwan.
The KMT regime had never allowed public expression of discontent, and violence followed as demonstrators arrived and found military police, soldiers and police officers already in position. The government court-martialed and jailed eight pro-democracy advocates and the bookstore was placed under government surveillance for years afterward.
Lee cofounded the Taiwan New Literature Magazine, and hosted lectures on literature and the arts twice a month at the bookstore.
Numerous figures prominent in Taiwanese culture spoke at the events, including writers Lin Wen-yi (林文義), Lin Shuangbu (林雙不) and Wu Sheng (吳晟), as well as director Wu Nien-jen (吳念真).
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