Several weeks ago, a book called The Eight-Nation Alliance are the Forces of Justice appeared in branches of Eslite Bookstore in Hong Kong. The Beijing-born author Liu Qikun, a well-known overseas China-basher, has attempted to whitewash the ferocious invasion of China in the 20th century with “humanitarian” justifications. He has maliciously distorted historical facts to glorify the heinous crimes of the eight nations. It is difficult to see how the expeditionary forces can be regarded as forces of justice. After occupying Tianjin, the allied forces started to quell the Boxer Rebellion, through what was described through the distorting lens of the author, as a “humanitarian intervention” that“succeeded in restoring order in China”.
With the indisputable invasion of the eight imperialist nations, there is hardly any justification that can rationalize or whitewash the imperialist invasion. I doubt whether the Eslite Bookstore performed due diligence to examine if the book was suitable for display. If the author has a political motive to defame China with distorted facts, then the act of allowing the book to be put on its shelves could attract criminal liability.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government must conduct a follow-up review of the laws monitoring publications in the city
First, the eight-nation expeditionary forces had inflicted grievous wounds on Chinese people with their massive killing, burning down of the Summer Palace and stealing of historical relics from our country. The attempt by the author and the Eslite Bookstore to rub salt into the historical wounds of the Chinese people is intolerable.
To make matters worse, the Eslite Bookstore distributed the book to its branches throughout Hong Kong. Take the Holocaust as an example, no writers in Germany would dare to justify or glorify Hitler’s massacre of millions of Jews during World War II. These kinds of books are not allowed to be published or put on sale in Germany. Similarly, we should not allow any historical misrepresentations or distorted facts to gain a foothold in China, let alone books of a similar nature to be displayed in bookstores.
In a free society like Hong Kong, the liberal commonlaw system allows owners of the bookstores the liberty to decide what to sell. It is worth noting that the book, with its incorrect facts and distorted interpretations, was displayed for sale in a prominent place in the store. The owner of the bookstore, however, did not take the public interest into consideration, let alone take any of the necessary and responsible actions. Eslite’s irresponsibility is striking, it fails moral standards. Its management team failed to establish any necessary screening mechanisms to examine the books on its shelves. As one of the largest retail bookstore chains in Taiwan, Eslite boasts a huge market share both at homeand in Hong Kong. So, the toxic books that harm the feelings of compatriots with no respect to historical facts should be excluded from the shelves!
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government must conduct a follow-up review of the laws monitoring publications in the city. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau has aduty to screen and categorize pornographic films and magazines, so it is time for Edward Yau Tang-wah, the secretary for commerce and economic development, to launch a cross-department inquiry into the case. Yau should set the record straight by issuing official compliance guidelines for all booksellers. Only strict law enforcement can ensure full compliance.
We should also take a close examination of the books with hidden political agendas that may violate the National Security Law for Hong Kong. Educational institutions, bookstores and relevant parties should dutifully tackle the issue.
The anger and complaints among members of the public are fomenting, they demanded that the bookstorere move the book from the shelves. The bookstorecannot be exempted from liability. It should not be allowed to sell books if the authors’ intention is to corrupt readers’ minds with the propagation of distorted historical facts. I urge the Hong Kong government toinvestigate the Eslite Bookstore and demand an explanation. At the same time, the government shouldstrengthen its supervision of publications. We cannot tolerate these kind of toxic cultural products from sneaking into the market.
Every item plays its role in shaping the cultural development in Hong Kong. Taking social responsibility into consideration, Eslite Bookstore remains the subject of stern condemnation for selling abook tainted with a distorted interpretation of history to glorify the bloody invasion launched by Western imperialist advocators. It is against humanity and harmful to world peace.
*The author is a barrister, member of Chinese Academic Link, and co-founder of Together We Can.