Hong Kong bookseller raising funds to reopen Causeway Bay Books in Taiwan

Former Causeway Bay Books manager Lam abducted by Chinese agents in 2015 for selling sensitive books

Lam Wing-kee (Source: CNA/ File photo)

Lam Wing-kee (Source: CNA/ File photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee (林榮基), who relocated to Taiwan in April out of fear that he could be extradited to China, has started a fundraising event for a new bookshop.

Lam is one of the five members of Causeway Bay Books that suddenly went missing in late 2015, only to resurface in Chinese custody and confess on state television to selling unauthorized books. The bookshop was known for selling politically sensitive books that had been outlawed in China.

Having expressed an interested in reopening Causeway Bay Books in Taipei, Lam acknowledged that he is unable to fund the bookshop on his own. He prefers not to look for individual or group shareholders considering the “political risk” they might have to shoulder.

“Fundraising is the only way,” Lam wrote on the fundraising web page. He added that he invites those who cherish freedom and democracy to become shareholders of the bookstore “in a spiritual sense.”

Lam kicked off the fundraising event on Thursday evening (August 5) offering 11 packages valued between NT$500 (US$16) and NT$20,000. The goal is to raise at least NT$2.8 million by November 5.

Lam plans to open the bookshop in Ximending, a shopping district that he thinks resembles the environment of Hong Kong’s city center. After the location of the bookshop is confirmed, Lam will then proceed with renovating it and ordering books, preparing to open shop in mid-2020 if everything goes smoothly.

“What Causeway Bay Books cannot do and is banned from doing in Hong Kong will be continued in a free Taiwan,” Lam said. As of press time, the fundraising has surpassed 60 percent of its goal.

“What we did was sell books. What does it have anything to do with damaging national security or ‘one country, two systems’?” Lam said. “But now I realized that only when a generation of people enhance cultural competency through reading will they be able to defy an authoritarian government and render people in the future free.”

Lam hopes the bookshop will become a platform for exchanges between Taiwanese and Hongkongers. “Taiwan’s circumstance is also urgent,” said Lam, adding that he wishes to recount what he and other Hongkongers have experienced under Chinese rule to the people in Taiwan.

Lam was detained by the Chinese authorities for nearly eight months before being released in June 2016. He had originally agreed to return to China and provide the information of customers who had purchased forbidden books from the bookshop.

Eventually Lam held a press conference in Hong Kong to disclose his treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities. Seeing that an extradition bill might be passed by the Hong Kong Legislative Council and that he would likely be extradited to China, Lam fled to Taiwan in April before the bill set off the months-long protests two months later.