The Hong Kong Book Fair, having been delayed for one year due to the coronavirus, has returned to the city today, with strict anti-epidemic measures in place.
Dozens of attendees had started forming queues hours before the 10am opening of the seven-day event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, with 763 exhibitors showcasing a wide range of publications.
The shopper first in line surnamed To, said he arrived at the venue at 7am this morning, with the hopes of getting autographed novels.
“I think I will be spending around HK$1,000 on the autographed novels and on autobiography books,” said To, adding that this is his ninth consecutive year getting the “first place” entering the fair.
For this year’s book fair, visitors could pay the entrance fee with Octopus – HK$25 for adults and HK$10 for children. They will be required to use the LeaveHomeSafe app or fill in a form, and cannot take off their masks inside the hall.
Meanwhile, 10,000 free tickets will be given out each day on July 14 and 15, to citizens who have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines, while the remaining 15,000 free tickets will be distributed from July 16 to 20, with 3,000 free tickets each day.
The free tickets will be given out on a first-come-first-served basis, and vaccinated citizens must enter the hall before midday.
All exhibitors and staff members are required to be fully vaccinated before the book fair, or they will have to provide a negative testing result within two weeks.
There will also be a separate isolation room inside the book fair, Chau said. If visitors fall sick and develop Covid-19 symptoms, they will be taken care of by professional medical staff and sent to hospitals.
Fair gets chills amid law fears
Political and sensitive books will largely disappear from the Hong Kong Book Fair, which opens today, amid fear of national security law, according to exhibitors.
The SAR’s biggest book fair, which features 544 exhibitors, will be held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from today until Tuesday.
Benjamin Chau Kai-leung, deputy executive director of Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said the council has no power to check whether books on display violate the national security law, but added that it will warn exhibitors if there are any complaints about their books.
Chau said the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will not censor material and does not have the power to conduct censorship at the fair.
He said political books will not “completely disappear,” but that there shouldn’t be books that violate the national security law. Chau said he hopes exhibitors will be “self-disciplined” and comply with the national security law.
“I don’t know whether the police or relevant department will have random checks on the book stands,” he said. “So far, nobody has informed us about such a search.”
He added he did not know whether books by pro-democracy activists who have been arrested would still be available, “but as long as they abide by the law of Hong Kong, they have the right to display and exhibit at the book fair.”
Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, the president of the publisher Subculture, said due to the national security law, even if books do not violate the law, publishers will not display books considered “sensitive.”
Pang added that there are fewer books on sociology at the book fair, and that exhibitors do not know what books could “cross the line,” as the government did not explain what books would violate the national security law.
Pang said Greenfield Bookstore, a regular exhibitor which carries a large number of political books, will not take part in this year’s fair.
Alan To Pui-hong, publishing manager at CUP Media, said there are fewer political books and more books on history and immigration this year.
To said exhibitors are concerned as to whether “politically sensitive” books would be reported to the police.
This year, CUP Media has avoided displaying books related to the Cultural Revolution and modern Hong Kong history.
Chau said the annual book fair usually records around one million visitors. Around 100,000 fewer visitors are expected this year due to the loss of overseas visitors.
Pang estimated Subculture’s sales for this year’s book fair would be 20 to 30 percent less than in 2019 due to fewer visitors and the poor economy.