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Hong Kong bookseller detained by China to reopen banned-publications store in Taiwan

Lam Wing-kee is seen amid preparations for the opening of the new Causeway Bay Books in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 14, 2020. (Mainichi/Shizuya Fukuoka)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Mainichi) -- Lam Wing-kee, 64, the former owner of Causeway Bay Books, a Hong Kong-based book shop that sold works banned by the Chinese Communist Party, will open a new business under the same name in Taipei on April 25.

Speaking to the Mainichi Shimbun, he said, "I'm truly happy to be opening Causeway Bay Books in Taiwan, where freedom and democracy is in the very air."

The new shop occupies about 60 square meters in a building in central Taipei. Books on a wide range of subjects fill its shelves, including on politics, history, culture, studies of the Chinese Communist Party and citizen activism in Hong Kong. Two flags hang in the shop too, one from the anti-government protests that have continued in Hong Kong since June 2019 that reads, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time," and another flag for Taiwanese independence. The island is considered by Beijing to be a renegade province.

So far, Lam has raised some 6 million Taiwanese dollars (about $199,000) in a crowdfunding campaign. At the beginning of April, he received business permissions from the government in Taiwan.

A door to the original Causeway Bay Books is seen in Hong Kong on July 2, 2017. (Mainichi/Shizuya Fukuoka)

While confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are relatively low on the island the number of people venturing outdoors has fallen somewhat. Lam said passionately, "I wanted to open for business even a day sooner if possible.

"Taiwan is under increasing pressure from the Chinese Communist Party's unification aims, and both it and Hong Kong are facing similar threats," he continued. "I want to provide many people here with the writing that can arm them with the knowledge necessary to counter this threat."

Chinese authorities were tracking Lam, and they arrested him in October 2015 when he was on a visit to Guangdong, the Chinese province just north of Hong Kong. He was detained under 24-hour surveillance until June 2016. The Chinese authorities demanded he work as a spy, and at a press conference held in Hong Kong after his release he spoke about the realities of his confinement. Deciding that remaining in Hong Kong would be dangerous, he relocated to Taiwan in April 2019.

Other individuals connected to Causeway Bay Books who were detained around the same time with Lam's arrest were found guilty in a Chinese court of illegally spreading information abroad, and sentenced to 10 years in prison each in February 2020.

(Japanese original by Shizuya Fukuoka, Taipei Bureau)

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