Censorship, 'lang mo' and re-entry promotions: 7 things you didn't know about the annual Hong Kong Book Fair

Censorship, 'lang mo' and re-entry promotions: 7 things you didn't know about the annual Hong Kong Book Fair

As you prepare for this year’s Hong Kong Book Fair, here are some interesting facts about the annual exhibition that most people aren’t aware of

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Last year, the Hong Kong Book Fair attracted more than one million visitors.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

For all of the many booklovers out there, rejoice: the 28th Hong Kong Book Fair begins tomorrow and will continue until July 25.To prep you for the big event, Young Post offers seven interesting facts about the annual exhibition at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).

1 What inspired the first Book Fair?

The first Hong Kong Book Fair was held in 1990. Prior to that, a smaller-scale “Chinese Book Fair” had been organised annually by the Hong Kong Publishing Federation at City Hall since 1971. After the completion of HKCEC Phase I, the publishing industry wanted to put on a larger and more professional exhibition. With the help of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the industry-sponsored Book Fair has been held at the HKCEC since 1990.

2 Rising numbers of attendees every year

The four-day fair was free in the first year, with 149 exhibitors and 300,000 attendees. As the fair’s popularity grew, days were added, hours were extended, and an entry fee (HK$25 for adults, HK$10 for children this year) was also introduced. Last year, exhibitors numbered 640, with more than one million visitors.


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3 Censorship

Since the disappearances of five members of independent bookstore Causeway Bay Books in 2015, fewer exhibitors are willing to sell politically sensitive books that are banned on the mainland.

Bao Pu from New Century Press, a publishing house known for high-quality political books banned in China, suggested problems are seen “at both ends of the book chain”, and considered the situation “very serious” as printers and bookstores throughout Hong Kong are no longer willing to print and sell politically sensitive books.

4 ‘Lang mo’ book signings

Book-signing sessions by celebrities began as early as 1996, and there were no major problems until 2009. That year, more than 30,000 people signed an online petition against the presence of pseudo-models, also known as lang mo, who were accused of hijacking a cultural event to promote their bodies for commercial purposes.

Because of the opposition, HKTDC specifically arranged a remote area for them to sign books. However, more complaints from parents, and educational and religious groups, led to the organiser banning the sale of these models’ photo albums the next year, which has lasted to this day.


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5 Re-entry promotion

Visitors on the first two days, holding regular adult (HK$25) or child (HK$10) tickets, can enjoy free admission during the weekend (Friday to Sunday) after 5pm by presenting the intact stub of their ticket. If you think that’s still not enough time for your book browsing, you can get the “Super Pass” for
HK$80 in advance: that means unlimited access with no queuing!

6 A tourist recommendation

The Book Fair is one of the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s recommendations and is listed as one of the “Things To Do” on the Discover Hong Kong website.

7 Books and comics at the same time

Back in the 90s, the Hong Kong Book Fair was not just for bookworms, but for comic lovers as well! In fact, booksellers blamed their lack of business on comics publishers that attracted large queues of early bird customers, which they said blocked book buyers from entering. In 1993, enthusiastic visitors rushing to get in shattered the glass next to the ticket counter, causing two minor injuries.

In 1999, comics publishers their first independent comic book fair, the Hong Kong Comics Festival, which is the predecessor of the Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong we now have.

Edited by Jamie Lam

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