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Hong Kong publishers are already self-censoring

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China’s authorities on the last day of June passed a new national security law, that applies also to Hong Kong.

The coming into force of the new law has gained a lot of traction in the western media, who use it to showcase all the ways in which Hong Kong – once by and large left alone by Beijing, now – more than a year into pro-democracy protests (initially motivated by a different, now abandoned piece of legislation) – seems to be witnessing its autonomy shrinking evermore.

The new law deals with issues that nobody should and can take lightly – crimes such as secession, subversion of the state, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers.

But couple that with long-standing question marks over China’s record when it comes freedom of speech and expression on and offline, and also proper due legal process – and many observers concluded even before the law was enacted that it might spur wide-spread censorship, and self-censorship in Hong Kong by and large as a means of self-preservation.

This report from the website of Hong Kong’s English language Standard newspaper seems to confirm this, saying that book publishers are already trying to toe the line on the right side of the new, oppressive rules.

Author Horace Chin Wan-kan is quoted as noticing this as works published by leaders and lawmakers of some of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy outfits, like Demosisto and Civic Party, are now either “unavailable or under review online.”

Chin’s own Hong Kong City-State series are all either listed as “under review or in transit,” the Standard said on Monday.

As if to speak to how efficient China’s formal and legal push to deal with the defiant region is proving to be, Chin shared on Facebook that the restricted access to these works isn’t even the work of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPC has not even yet gotten round to reviewing – and/or possibly censoring these works – when Hong Kong-based publishers decided to take some “pro-active” steps and restrict access, just in case.

This is taken as one of the prime examples of self-censorship, which is as a rule, lest it be forgotten – motivated by existential fear.

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