Added: Melita Fitzpatrick - Date: 02.11.2021 10:24 - Views: 36681 - Clicks: 3972
In Hong Kong, books illegal in mainland China are available to buy. For mainland Luddites who prefer to sit down and read a book that their government has determined unsuitable for general consumption, the closest thing to a 3-D VPN is People's Recreation Communitya tiny bookstore in Hong Kong's Causeway Bay known for selling the widest range of banned books available in greater China. Hong Kong is part of China, but during negotiations between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher in the s, Deng agreed to grant the former British colony 50 years of autonomy after its return to Chinese rule in Thus, in Hong Kong, mainland Chinese people can purchase pornographic magazines atread the New York Times on their iP and buy books about the carnage of Tiananmen Square in at a neighborhood bookstore.
Inside People's Recreation Community, a computer monitor at the bookstore's entrance announces the month's top sellers. First-time visitors chat excitedly with friends in Mandarin while casting glances around the shop. Return customers, who tend to be alone, quietly leaf through new arrivals. I sat down with year-old Hong Kong native Paul Tang, founder of People's Recreation Community, for a caffeinated chat about China's most famous source for banned books. It seems like business at People's Recreation Community is brisk, how did you get to this point?
I opened the bookstore in It was originally called People's Bookstore. It wasn't that easy. Compared to Taiwan and mainland China, not that many people read books in Hong Kong. The of people that wanted to read simplified character books in Hong Kong was much smaller than I'd imagined. In I decided to change my business model and convert the bookstore into a book bar. I wanted to give the book bar a distinctive style, so I renamed it People's Commune [People's Recreation Community in English], painted the walls red and tweaked the de a little bit before reopening. There weren't many individual mainland tourists coming to Russell Street then; most of our customers were from Hong Kong.
But we scraped by and made it through.
Later that year we began to get mainland visitors from cities like Beijing and Tianjin who were traveling on their own. Our said "People's Commune" in Chinese, and our logo was Mao Zedong's face, so maybe that caught their eye. Sometimes, customers would ask me questions like, "Hey boss, do you have any copies of Zhou Enlai's Later Years? I wasn't really into politics - we were primarily selling books about art and culture. I thought it was strange. Why were mainlanders coming to my shop and asking me about these kinds of books? It turns out they were coming in out of curiosity, wondering what was going on in the People's Commune.
We began selling more and more banned books in late People were interested in the power transition from [President] Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao [which was drawn out over two years]. Customers would come back and ask, "What else do you have? We started off with a tiny shelf of political books, eventually it grew to take up a counter, and as sales continued to improve more of the store was taken up by banned books. The Taiwanese books are more analytical and data-oriented, they don't tend to be sensational in their approach to Chinese politics, focusing on facts and comparing different historical reference materials.
Those books are quite good, but they're not published often. In Hong Kong we have a lot of magazines covering current political events that will compile ly published content about a hot topic and republish it in a book format.
These books are usually deed to catch the eye, and the information tends to be fresher than the Taiwanese books.I Tried ONLY Speaking Cantonese in HONG KONG
How much of what is inside the Hong Kong books is true? I wouldn't dare to guarantee the accuracy. However, we find the Taiwan-published books to be very trustworthy. How much of your shelf space is devoted to banned books these days? Half of the books in our shop are related to mainland politics, the other half is culture or literature. Roughly 90 percent of our book sales are to mainland Chinese and tend to be about politics.
Sometimes a Hong Konger will come in and buy a book about, say, Wen Jiabao. But we know that quite often they're buying on behalf of their mainland clients or friends, maybe their uncle. Hong Kongers are not terribly interested in politics, especially mainland politics.
And the mainland market is much larger than the Hong Kong market anyway. So you didn't start out with any political agenda or a plan to specialize in selling books that are banned in China? No, it developed rather organically, we just followed the market.
When Russell Street [the street on which the store is located] became a shopping destination for mainland travelers, people started coming into our shop and asking for these kinds of books. I began to think that this was a future market that we could serve. The tipping point was in the summer of when Hong Kong was holding its annual book fair. That year we were visited by a journalist from the mainland magazine Phoenix Weekly that was here to cover the book fair.
She was writing about the political books published in Hong Kong. She stopped by and chatted with us for an hour or two. Then she asked what our top 10 bestselling books were. I gave her our bestseller list and she left. The book fair wrapped up, she went back to Beijing and her article was published. As it happened, as soon as the article was published, lo of people grabbed a copy of the magazine and came to Hong Kong asking for the bestseller list -- one copy of each book.
We'd just bundle them up and sell them as a set. It was pretty crazy. It really put us on the map. For three months we were selling a lot of books just because of one article. I heard that issue of Phoenix Weekly was only on bookshelves for a couple of weeks before the central propaganda bureau ordered it confiscated and blocked their website for a month. It was a pretty severe punishment, but the reporter told me that she didn't regret it, and her boss supported her. Well, a lot of Chinese journalists don't necessarily agree with government censorship, it's just one of the conditions under which they work.
A lot of reports don't make it past the censors, but I'm not quite sure how this one did. It was very in-your-face. After that, word got around and many Chinese who'd never been to Hong Kong learned about us. On top of that, lots of travel blogs began to mention "that bookstore in Causeway Bay".
We even made it onto a lot of the "must-visit" lists, right after Ocean Park. We were pretty happy that we had customers singing our praises. For mainlanders these kinds of materials are very difficult to obtain. Nowadays in news kiosks and even convenience stores like they're starting to sell banned books. They know it's already a good market. Of the banned books that People's Recreation Community sells, what topics have historically sold the best?
We typically separate the banned books into two. One category is historical books. The other is hot topics, things like the Bo Xilai case. When news breaks we sell a lot of the second category, but not long afterward sales will dry up. We'll order books the first time around and sell out quickly and then maybe another 20 and that's enough. One of the main reasons is that the stories develop quickly. In the beginning of the Bo Xilai case, all the books were about Wang Lijun. Then it was Bo Xilai. After that, the attention shifted to Zhou Yongkang. The story is evolving constantly, so we won't commit to large stocks of those types of books.
The historical book category is different. From the moment they're published right up until today, they sell well. Of course were not selling dozens of copies a week of each of those books, but they are guaranteed to sell.
Some customers already have digital copies of the book, but they want to have a physical copy they can hold in their hands or place on their bookshelf to show that they're true readers. We get customers from all over China, but of course the coastal cities are better represented. People in those areas are wealthier and have more opportunities to come to Hong Kong.
We get a higher percentage of customers from Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Beijing, those kinds of places. Over the years have the kinds of banned books that you offer changed at all? Sure, we ask our customers what types of books they're looking for and what kinds they don't like.Chat at China - Hong Kong foam
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