Basic Law violation seen as LOCPG tightens grip on HK publishers

April 09, 2015 13:52
Joint Publishing HK, which is under the control of LOCPG's Zhang Xiaoming (inset), refuses to sell any books related to the pro-democracy Occupy Movement. Photo: HKEJ

The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government (LOCPG), the de facto government in Hong Kong, is tightening its grip on the city’s publishing industry, according to the latest issue of Next Magazine.

The LOCPG has taken control of Sino United Publishing Limited, the dominant player in the local publishing market, through a shell company based in Hong Kong, the magazine said, quoting documents from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Sino United Publishing has businesses ranging from publishing to distribution and retailing. The publisher wholly owns three local major bookstores -- Joint Publishing HK, Chung Hwa Book Co. and the Commercial Press. 

The LOCPG also owns other media outlets, including Wen Wei Po, Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong Commercial Daily and Orange News, a newly-setup online news site.

It now controls more than 80 percent of the market.

However, LOCPG's actions may be in violation of Hong Kong's Basic Law, according to Apple Daily.

Under the Article 22 of the Basic Law, no department of the Central People's Government may interfere in the affairs which the HKSAR administers on its own in accordance with the law.

Also, "if there is a need for departments of the Central Government, or for provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government to set up offices in the HKSAR, they must obtain the consent of the government of the region and the approval of the Central People's Government".

Last month, it was reported that the three publishers under Sino United Publishing have received orders not to sell any books related to the pro-democracy Occupy Movement.

Small publishers with liberal political orientation have been affected much. Last month, Carmen Kwong Wing-suen, the editor-in-chief of Up Publications, said her company had hundreds of books returned by Sino United Publishing through its three bookstores.

Kwong said the Beijing-backed publisher has taken its fight to the next level: it also rejected books by Up Publications that are not even political in subject matter.

It is believed that the censorship is getting worse in Hong Kong.

Mainstream retailers are under increasing pressure to edit their selection of books so that they do not offend the central government.

Increasingly, standalone bookstores may be the only place where pubications dealing with sensitive subjects can be found.

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EJ Insight writer