Hong Kong publisher defies history book's ban in China
Mon, Sep 28, 2009

HONG KONG, Sept 28, 2009 (AFP) - A Hong Kong publisher on Monday released a book about Chinese history that was banned in mainland China for criticising authoritarian rule, just days before the celebration of 60 years of communism.

"Chinese History Revisited" by journalist Xiao Jiansheng is on sale in Hong Kong bookshops despite Beijing banning the book two years ago, the publisher Bao Pu told AFP.

Xiao's work, with an initial print run of 2,000 copies, covers thousands of years of Chinese history up until the early 1950s, avoiding more recent and highly sensitive subjects like the Cultural Revolution or the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, Bao said.

However, "the writer has written the book in total disregard of the tightly controlled official version of history," he said.

"He looks at why Chinese society has not made the transformation to rule of law, pluralism and an emphasis on human rights. That touches a nerve in China."

Bao said he had timed the launch to coincide with an expected wave of mainland tourists in Hong Kong this week but had understood that the Chinese authorities were concerned that he was "trying to crash their party."

Beijing has prepared grandiose celebrations for National Day on October 1, which marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China.

Xiao, 54, said his bosses at the official Hunan Daily newspaper had pressured him over the book.

"They told me it was National Day (soon), and publishing this book would be very sensitive - it looked like it was going against the celebrations for the 60th anniversary," he told AFP.

"I told Bao Pu the pressure was very big and asked him to stop publishing the book... He couldn't stop it, and in my heart I didn't want it to stop either."

Xiao said he thought officials and the police had pressured his bosses into talking to him.

His offer to resign was turned down by the newspaper but he said he had been asked by his bosses to write an account of any interviews with journalists.

"I don't know what reaction they will have after reading the book. I'm worried but I don't think there will be too much of a problem," Xiao said.

"The main meaning of this book is to hope that China quickens political reform, and goes on the path of democratic constitutionalism," he added.

Bao has already drawn fire from the Beijing-backed media this year after his Hong Kong-based company, New Century Press, published a memoir by deposed Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang.

Bao is the son of a former top aide of Zhao, who was ousted over his sympathy with Beijing's Tiananmen Square protests, which were crushed by the army in 1989 with the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands.

Hong Kong has a semiautonomous status and enjoys freedom of speech not allowed in mainland China.

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Hong Kong publisher defies history book's ban in China