‘Not true’: memo calling Page One staff to pull books critical of CCP off shelves now in ‘police probe’ 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” following regular customer surveys on travellers’ needs.Relay and Page One were granted their most recent licences to run 16 bookshops at the airport in 2009.With the leases expiring in April, the Airport Authority invited bids for the relocated spaces in June last year and decided the winners in August.
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Lisa Leung Yuk-ming, associate professor from the department of cultural studies at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, said Chung Hwa had “quite a strong mainland Chinese background” and people might surmise political reasons for the changes.
“Airport book shops became a haven for all these controversial books about Beijing government officials and their sex lives and how they made their way [to power] through corruption,” she said.
“They were a haven not only for books but for magazines publishing gossip tabloid stories about the mainland Chinese government.
“This might be a reprisal for bookshops selling these kind of things or it might be self-censorship by the airport themselves to try to weed out these problematic bookshop labels.
“It might be a more proactive strategy to let more pro-Beijing commercial presses have space at the airport as a way to toe the official line – [and say] these are the books you should be reading rather than these problem [ones].” The Airport Authority spokeswoman repeatedly declined to address concerns over a possible political motive for the reduction in bookshop space.
“The selection of books to be offered in the shops is decided by bookstore operators,” she said.The decision to cut back on book shops contrasts with the authority’s comments in 2009 when the previous contracts were awarded.Then, the authority said its surveys found books, magazines and newspapers were among the best-selling categories for departing passengers.Hong Kong International Airport is cutting back sharply on the number of bookshops for departing passengers and replacing all Page One stores with new outlets run by a mainland-based firm.The overhaul includes the replacement with high-end fashion stores of the airport’s two biggest bookshops in the departure area – once popular with mainland travellers buying books and magazines banned across the border.At a time of major 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 positioned near departure gates.