Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Bookstores remove customer membership info following returned bookseller revelations

Two bookstores have announced that they will accept customer requests to remove membership details from their records, after returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee revealed that he was ordered by Chinese authorities to hand over sales records relating to some 600 customers of his Causeway Bay “banned” book store.

The announcement came following a press conference given by Lam on Thursday evening, during which he shared dramatic details of his eight-month detention in the mainland. Lam was one of the five booksellers from the store who went missing last year. The shop sells political gossip titles banned in China – Lam founded and operated the bookstore before it was purchased by Mighty Current in 2014.

Lam told reporters that he was asked to return to Hong Kong at the order of the Chinese authorities to retrieve a hard drive containing sales records from the bookstore. The data included some 600 people’s details, mostly mainlanders, and some 4,000 book titles.

lam wing-kee

Lam Wing-kee. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Following the press conference, Hong Kong Reader Bookstore announced on Facebook: “[We] will no longer keep any records of members purchasing books. Should a member wish to change or remove their membership details, please contact us…”

A spokesperson for the bookstore, Ms Wong, told HKFP that – starting Thursday – book purchases would not be traced back to members. Even the store itself will not be able to check who-purchased-what from the records.

‘Overlap’

Wong said that although the bookstore sold academic books rather than specifically “banned” titles, sometimes there would be an overlap between the two. For example, with books concerning the Cultural Revolution. Wong also said that the bookstore did not sell gossipy titles concerning Chinese officials, as they were not the type of books they usually carry.

She added that there were no plans to take books down from shelves, though around ten members had put in requests to remove their membership details so far.

hong kong reader bookstore

Hong Kong Reader Bookstore. Photo: 序言書室 Hong Kong Reader Bookstore via Facebook.

In a similar case, Lohas Book’s Family in Tuen Mun said on Thursday evening that – following Lam’s press conference – members wishing to remove their details from their database should contact them immediately.

“Should any member wish to leave the group, we would understand and respect the decision,” it said on Facebook.

Bookstores remove customer membership info following returned bookseller revelations