Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Closed Space Filled with Books China Doesn't Want Read: Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

If you are looking for something different from The Nostalgia Book Room — a Cultural Revolution themed store in Shaoguan, Guangdong — Causeway Bay Books with its banned-in-mainland-China offerings might be the answer. Today I decided to visit the store for the first time.

Far from Wuya Lane, the store can be found on the more crowded Lockhart Road in Hong Kong, a city with broader freedoms than Shaoguan and the rest of mainland China.

Causeway Bay Books on Lockhart Road in Hong Kong

The store doesn't display an English name, but a blue and white sign with its Chinese name 銅鑼灣書店 is easy to spot near an exit for the Causeway Bay MTR station. As you get closer, more signs confirm you have arrived at the right place.

Storefront signs for Causeway Bay Books (銅鑼灣書店)

All that remains is to enter the building and go up one story by stairs.

entrance to building where Causeway Bay Books is located

A sign outside the building today, may have convinced some people to abort a visit to the store though.

sign with "公安出未注意!" repeated three times

With an apparent typo*, it emphatically warns police from mainland China are around. Duly noted.

When I arrived at the store's entrance inside the building, I saw a man who looked somewhat like a cross between Zhou Yongkang and Hulk Hogan photographing notes on the store's outer door. He turned towards me and appraised the situation. After I smiled, he emitted a sound somewhat like a cross between a grunt and a laugh. He soon left without a word, which did not surprise me. But I did not expect he would go up instead of down the steps. I did not see him again.

Unfortunately, I am not able to provide a look inside the store as I did with The Nostalgia Book Room. Due to the suspicious disappearances of five people who worked there, Causeway Bay Books is currently closed.

door to Causeway Bay Books with "Closed" sign and notes left by visitors

During the approximately five minutes I was near the door, 4 people stopped by. One person initially acted as if they were going to a location higher in the building, but all appeared to have come solely to visit the store. Several took photographs, and all read the notes with wishes in Chinese for a safe return of the booksellers. The notes differed from those which appear in a video of another person's earlier visit to the closed store.

One note had a message in English similar to some Chinese messages on other notes.

note with messages "祝願早日平安回 重新營業" and "Freedom of speech never dies"
Freedom of speech never dies
from HKer
Freedom of speech may not now be dead in Hong Kong. But the current closure of Causeway Bay Books and a much larger international bookstore chain removing "controversial" books from its shelves in Hong Kong are signs of how it is suffering a thousand ongoing cuts.

locked chain around an outdoor metal door

*Thanks to several Hongkongers who believe this represents a common type of error for helping me sort this out. 未 appears to be a result of two errors regarding the likely intended character 沒. 沒 and 末 sound the same in Cantonese. 末 and 未 look similar. As someone who once researched language cognition by examining errors in written English, I found this intriguing.

No comments:

Post a Comment