Following the adoption of the new Hong Kong Security Law on 19 March 2024, the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) are concerned at the limits this law will create on the freedom to publish in Hong Kong.

The new law has been denounced by Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the Hong Kong Centre for Human Rights, and the Hong Kong Democratic Council (HKDC). At issue are the bill’s sweeping provisions and broad definitions. Reports in The Guardian suggest that the impact of the new law on publishers and booksellers has been immediate.

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee: The last ten years have seen publishing and bookselling in Hong Kong decimated. From intimidation to restrictive security laws we must recognise the tools of censorship and resist them.

EIBF Co-President, Jean Luc Treutenaere: The steady deterioration of the freedom of expression in Hong Kong is alarming and disheartening. The book publishing and bookselling communities are under threat by repressive security laws, which are resulting in vibrant and beloved bookshops shutting down. Any closure, and particularly in current times, is a massive loss to the book world.

In 2022, EIBF highlighted the case of Lam Wing-Kee, a Hong Kong bookseller who was the subject of censorship from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Mr Lam’s bookshop Causeway Bay Books had been running in Hong Kong for decades, selling books that were deemed unlawful in mainland China, and defying the oppression of the government. In 2015, Mr Lam was one of five booksellers and publishers who disappeared from various locations in Hong-Kong, Thailand and mainland China. Fearing extradition to China, in 2019, Mr Lam escaped to Taiwan, where he has recreated his bookshop. This space has become a gathering place for advocates of freedom of expression, democracy and human rights.

IPA has previously expressed concern about the situation for publishers in Hong Kong. In September 2022, 5 authors and publishers were sentenced to 19 months in prison for ‘conspiracy to print, publish, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications’. In 2018 IPA awarded the Prix Voltaire to Swedish Hong Kong publisher by Gui Minhai who co-owned Mighty Current and was one of the Causeway Books booksellers. Gui is currently in jail in China. The IPA continues to call for his release.