Hong Kong International Airport is cutting back on the number of bookshops and replacing all Page One booksellers with shops run by a mainland-based firm. High-end fashion brands will replace the airport’s two biggest bookshops in the departure area – once popular with mainland travellers buying books and magazines banned across the border.
The news comes at a time of controversy over Hong Kong’s banned book trade. The number of airport bookshops is being reduced from 16 to 10, and four remaining shops moved, mostly to smaller sites near departure gates. The two biggest bookshops near gates 20 and 21 will be replaced by luxury fashion brands.
From April, five of the 10 remaining bookshops at the airport will be run by a new operator, mainland publisher and chain Chung Hwa.
The cutback in book retail space has caused concerns that the Airport Authority might have been pressured to shut down shops selling politically sensitive titles.
Five local booksellers went missing last year, sparking fears they had been kidnapped by mainland agents. They later turned up on the other side of the border, and claimed they had gone there voluntarily to help with an investigation into the smuggling and sale of banned books.
However, an Airport Authority spokeswoman said the decision had been taken to reduce bookstore space because of a “change in reading habit and advancement in technology” after traveller surveys.
The bookshops’ leases will expire in April.