Hong Kong Says Public Libraries Must Comply With Security Law

Hong Kong has said all public libraries must comply with its national security law after a pro-China lawmaker highlighted that a local branch had prominently displayed books written by media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.

On Thursday evening, Hong Kong’s government said it was investigating reports of a local public library displaying books written by a person awaiting trial for suspected breaches of the national security law.

Hong Kong Says Public Libraries Must Comply With Security Law

Earlier on Thursday, pro-China lawmaker Cheung Kwok-kwan posted a photo on Facebook of a book display featuring several books related to Lai. Cheung, a member of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s advisory Executive Council, said citizens complained that the library recommended books related to Lai, who is suspected of violating the national security law.

Lai, a fierce critic of Beijing who has been imprisoned by the government for attending unauthorized protests in 2019, is the owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper that was shut down by authorities this week. He has also been charged under the city’s security law and is awaiting trial.

His Apple Daily newsroom was raided by 500 police officers last week, who arrested the top three editors and two executives of the parent company Next Digital Ltd. under the security law. Hong Kong security officials denied the company access to its bank accounts, the company said, and it was forced to closed down -- printing its last newspaper on Thursday.

In a statement, the government said library collections must comply with the security law, a development similar to the government’s recent national security additions to the city’s film censorship guidelines.

“With the promulgation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong Public Libraries must ensure that its collections are in compliance with the relevant law,” a spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said in a statement. “If any staff member is found to be involved in the issue, the LCSD will consult the relevant departments and handle the matter in a serious manner, in accordance with the established mechanism, and take appropriate actions.”

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