Social activist Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, a member of localist party Civic Passion, has stirred up controversy by calling upon followers to resist books written in simplified Chinese characters, which he said public libraries in Hong Kong have purchased in large quantities.
On Saturday, Cheng said on Facebook: “Recently there have been media reports which revealed that, since 2006, the public libraries have purchased up to 600,000 books in simplified Chinese characters, and many of them are children’s reading material, political in nature and sing the praises of the Chinese Communist government. This shows that this sort of brainwashing education has already infiltrated communities and is poisoning our next generation.”
Simplified characters are a set of Chinese characters with reduced numbers of strokes, currently in widespread use in China. However, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao have always maintained their use of traditional characters.
Cheng also said that there have been accusations of the authorities allocating more space to books in simplified characters on shelves and deliberately hiding books with traditional characters. He then made a call for action to “defend the public libraries” and to ask Hongkongers to take books with simplified characters down from their shelves to put up a resistance against the “red books with crippled characters”.
Cheng then posted a video showing a person throwing the books into the libraries’ bins and hiding them in secret corners, such as in cabinets or behind lockers.
Posted by 四眼哥哥（鄭錦滿） on Saturday, 2 April 2016
Pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said that Cheng’s behaviour was selfish and the police should enforce the law, Oriental Daily reported. “I’m quite sure what he’s doing is illegal – when calls for ‘shopping tours’ protests were made online during Occupy, that was dishonest use of computer.” According to barrister Luk Wai-hung, throwing library books into the bin is theft and hiding the books violates the Libraries Regulation, Headline Daily reported.
A Leisure and Cultural Services Department spokesperson expressed regret about the incident and said that the law does not allow anyone to impede others from using the libraries’ facilities. The spokesperson also said that anyone who wrecks library property will face legal consequences, and that the staff will not hesitate to act if they come across any behaviour that violates regulations on library premises.
Social commentator Winnie, however, defended Cheng’s actions, saying, “Before you accuse [Cheng] of ‘burning books and burying scholars’, please think about how the Communist Party destroys books. The Communist Party doesn’t use fire, it purchases publishers to ensure a monopoly over bookstores and sets the syllabus so that before books are even created, it has destroyed books and ideologies that it does not want to see.”