HONG KONG — As publisher of the secret journal of purged Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang and other political blockbusters, New Century Press has grown accustomed to dealing with bursts of rage from Beijing.
But it never expected a fuss over its latest venture: a densely footnoted monograph on political theory by an 83-year-old communist with a heart condition.
(Courtesy Of New Century Press) - Chinese officials tried to block publication of “China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao,” by Yu Jie, which portrayed the Chinese prime minister as a fraud. Yu Jie, who says he was tortured, fled to the United States in January.
(Courtesy Of New Century Press) - New Century Press cancelled publication of “Li Peng Tiananmen Diary,” but the book - in which Li defends his role in the 1989 massacre -has been issued by other publishers in pirated editions.
“Frankly, this book was never going to be a sensational bestseller,” said Bao Pu, the founder of the Hong Kong-based publishing house.
But there is no telling what will stir anger these days in a country that is increasingly prosperous and powerful but also curiously insecure — so much so that China spends more on internal security than on defense and views as a threat an octogenarian authority on Marxism and believer in democracy.
Bao said he got a late-night call last week from officials in Beijing — who have no jurisdiction over what gets written or read in Hong Kong — demanding that he halt publication of a collection of essays by Du Guang, a retired professor at the Central Party School, which serves as a think tank as well as ideological boot camp for China’s ruling Communist Party.
“This is what happens if you give unlimited power to the security apparatus,” Bao said, echoing a widespread view that the party, though the architect of China’s spectacular economic renaissance, is in thrall to retrograde security organs that see flickerings of subversion in every corner.
Du’s book was originally due to be published March 1 — just before the opening Monday in Beijing of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament. Budget figures released at the start of the conclave show that China will this year increase spending on domestic security forces by 11.5 percent to $111 billion — $5 billion more than the military will get.
Bao said he decided to delay publication but still intends to release Du’s book, adding it to a growing list of publications issued in Hong Kong that rattle Beijing. The former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but retains free speech and other liberties absent in the rest of China, has developed a vibrant niche publishing industry geared to mainland visitors eager for information they can’t get at home. Its output ranges from lurid accounts of the mistresses of party officials and “insider” revelations of dubious authenticity to far more serious — and, for Beijing, more disturbing — works on Chinese politics and history by people such as Du.
A study of the party
Unlike student protesters who enraged the party by erecting a statue modeled on New York’s Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square in 1989 or the jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo who championed Western liberties and mocked party dogma, Du is a party member who takes Chinese communism seriously. In some ways, though, that makes him especially troublesome.
His book, an advance copy of which has been reviewed by The Washington Post, doesn’t ridicule the party or call for its overthrow but dissects its theoretical gobbledygook and traces how far it has drifted from its early ideals. The book’s title: “Getting Back to Democracy.”