- Anti-extradition bill protesters plan to stage demonstrations at booths run by outlets under Sino United Publishing
- Book fair organising committee member says they will tolerate expression of political views as long as visitors do not face inconvenience
Hong Kong's annual book fair has strengthened security measures after extradition bill protesters vowed to target booths of a state-owned publishing group when the week-long event opens on Wednesday.
"We have enhanced our security, but I cannot disclose the details," said Benjamin Chau, deputy executive director of the fair's organiser, the Trade Development Council, on Tuesday.
"I do not know exactly what the protesters are going to do, but I hope they will not disturb other people enjoying the fair."
Hong Kong protesters to target annual book fair and Beijing-owned Sino United Publishing
The idea of protesting at booths run by outlets under Sino United Publishing (SUP) was floated on Monday on LIHKG " an online forum that has effectively been a virtual command centre of the anti-bill movement. The proposal secured more than 2,200 endorsement from users in a day.
Controlled by Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, SUP is the largest publishing group in the city, dominating as much as 90 per cent of the book retail business through its units Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book and Commercial Press.
The now-suspended bill would have allowed fugitive transfers with places Hong Kong does not have an extradition deal with, including mainland China.
Other action proposed by users included protesting at talks attended by Beijing-friendly writers and creating a "Lennon Wall" at the book fair.
Colourful collages of Post-it notes, known as Lennon Walls have sprung up across the city, allowing residents to leave messages of support for the protesters.
Chau said the book fair had no plans to erect blank boards for such a display.
"But we will try to tolerate their expression of political views as much as we can, as long as they do not harass or cause inconvenience to others," Chau said.
He added the organiser would have to ask the protesters to leave if they affected public order or visitors' safety.
"We don't want to see that happening but we will not rule it out," he said.
In response, Cherry Chan, deputy general manager of Chung Hwa Book, said: "We are here to serve readers and anyone who comes to the booth is our reader."
Jacky Lui, marketing manager of SUP Publishing Logistics, said it had not take any precautionary measures for its booths.
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"People are welcome to read books here. I am confident in Hong Kong being a rational society," he said.
Joint Publishing had not increased manpower at its booths either, according to its marketing manager Calvin Ko.
"We will leave it to the organiser to handle if anything happens," Ko said.
The book fair celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and organisers hope to attract more visitors than the 1.04 million that attended last year, despite the unrest that has rocked the city since early June.
The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has decided to skip the fair for the first time in three years and at least four marches have been planned during the week of the fair.
"It's meaningless to worry," Chau said. "The fair has been held for 30 years. The city has had its ups and downs over three decades but we never cancelled a fair."
The fair will run till July 23 and host more than 680 exhibitors from around the world.
It will feature talks by renowned authors from home and abroad, including local novelist Ni Kuang, award-winning Chinese author Yan Lianke and bestselling Canadian writer Steven Erikson.
Admission fees for adults will be HK$25 and HK$10 for children. But those aged below three or older than 65 can go in free of charge.
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