Books banned in China are available here

Union Book Co at the Bras Basah Complex carries magazines and books about Chinese politics and history.
Union Book Co at the Bras Basah Complex carries magazines and books about Chinese politics and history.PHOTO: JOYCE LIM

China's Godfather, Xi Jinping.

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These books may be banned in China, but they can be easily found in bookstores here.

 

Chinese tourists are the main customers for such books, which purportedly give readers a peek into the inside workings of Chinese politics. Booksellers here told The Sunday Times that it is not unusual for the tourists to spend between $500 and $1,000 on such books, most of which are priced between $30 and $60 each.

Mr Hairil Johari who works at Relay at Changi Airport Terminal 1, said: "Whenever there is a flight to China, we can expect an influx of Chinese tourists combing the stores for these books. The stores in the transit areas enjoy higher sales. There have been rare occasions when some tourists bought all the books, leaving the bookshelves empty."

Mr Hairil, 37, said some customers would tear off the covers of the books before asking him to pack them in sealed boxes. "Maybe that way they can avoid having their books confiscated at the customs checkpoint back home," added Mr Hairil.

Such banned titles were thrust into the spotlight a fortnight ago after five publishers and booksellers were reported to be missing and feared to be detained by the Chinese authorities.

The five missing men all worked for publishing house Mighty Current, which owns Causeway Bay Books, a store known for books critical of the Chinese government.

The Sunday Times found some of the titles carried by Causeway Bay Books at Union Book Co and Popular bookstore at the Bras Basah Complex and Kinokuniya bookstores. However, the most extensive selections are found at the nine bookstores at Changi Airport.

Union Book Co store manager Yap Chia Wei, 35, said his store has accumulated about 200 titles on Chinese politicians and history.

Mr Yap has read some of the sensational titles and found the claims by the authors about the Chinese leaders to be "rather baseless". But perhaps because they are banned in China, it has piqued people's interest and sparked demand for such books, he said.

Most of the books are bought by Chinese tourists, although a few locals, Chinese residing in Singapore, academics and observers of Chinese politics have also bought them.

Mr Yap started bringing in such books 10 years ago and distributes them to bookstores at Changi Airport. He declined to disclose figures relating to the sale of the books, but said there are new titles published every month.

Mr Yap said he did not notice any increase in demand for the books after some of the banned titles were reported in the media recently.

There was a lot more interest in the books during the sensational trial of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and the downfall of former security chief Zhou Yongkang, said Mr Yap.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Books banned in China are available here'. Print Edition | Subscribe