The Hong Kong bookstore that sold books critical of Chinese leaders and fell victim to Beijing's persecution, is expected to reopen in Taipei after the Lunar New Year holiday, its founder Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) said Friday.
Lam, who founded Causeway Bay Books in 1994, fled to Taiwan two months after the Hong Kong government proposed a controversial extradition bill in February 2019, fearing he would be extradited to China under the bill to face charges of running an illegal business.
In Taipei, he raised nearly NT$6 million (US$200,000) through an online fundraising website from September to November to fund his plan to reopen the bookstore, which he said will serve as a space "for free souls." He has leased a space in a building near the Taipei Metro's Zhongshan Station, Lam told CNA, after abandoning his hope to open the bookstore in Ximending, a popular shopping district among young people in the older part of Taipei, because of the high cost of rent.
"Although it's on the 10th floor, the store space is very much like the one in Hong Kong," Lam said. He has signed the lease and paid rent, and the store is now being decorated, including with custom-made bookshelves, he said. The store will likely open after the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Jan. 29, and Lam hoped it will become a place where help is given to Hong Kong residents who have moved to Taiwan since Hong Kong became embroiled in protests in June.
Recalling the old Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong, the 64-year-old Lam said he originally hoped to put his store in Ximending was because "it is bustling, like Mongkok in Hong Kong." On the other hand, the Zhongshan District, where the new bookstore will be situated, "has more academic feel, like Causeway Bay in the past," he said, expressing satisfaction with the new location.
Lam was one of five shareholders and staff members of Causeway Bay Books who disappeared into Chinese custody at the end of 2015. He was released on bail and allowed to return to Hong Kong in June 2016 to retrieve a hard drive listing the bookstore's customers.
Instead, he jumped bail and went public, detailing how he was blindfolded by police after crossing the border into Shenzhen and spent months being interrogated. In late April this year, Lam told the media that he fled to Taiwan over concerns he would be extradited to China under the controversial extradition bill.
The bill has since been scrapped in the wake of mass protests that developed into a movement calling for full democracy in the Special Administrative Region.