28 July 2010

Yellowish Pearl - what the Book Fair tells us

One of the biggest events of the year, the Book Fair, just ended this Tuesday in this Village. What got reported most were not the electronic readers, neither the popular Chinese blogger Han Han nor any seminars held during the Fair, but how TDC banned all autograph signings of young models, the exhibitors' sales turnover and the growth of the number of visitors.

This Village used to be proud of its openness to any cultures, ideologies, people, etc. TDC, a quasi-govt organisation, banned young models' autograph signings during the Book Fair on the grounds that, first, the Book Fair is open to all Villagers of all ages. Secondly, their photo albums are bad taste and will harm the reading atmosphere. Finally, they claimed that this decision was a response to public comments. I would like to say that it's not for you, TDC, to tell our Villagers if something is bad taste or not. Though there are some comments saying that these models shouldn't be there, there are at the same time comments saying that the Book Fair should be an open platform for any publication and people so that they can choose what they want and exchange views. If TDC is determined in banning the models, they could have done it in a smarter way without getting the blame put on themselves: simply submit those albums to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification. With the "good taste" of those adjudicators, the albums would definitely be classified as at least Class II. TDC could then officially ban them from the Book Fair as it allows only Class I publications. Of course, TDC didn't get it. Maybe we shouldn't expect TDC to have the courage and vision to do anything cultural in the first place.

As its name suggested, Hong Kong Trade Development Council care only about how many business they do in terms of figures. Number of visitors, average spending of visitors, etc. Yes, those are most important to them, 920 thousands visitors means 23 millions dollars of income from ticketing. What is more important than money in this Village? Yes, more money. A two percent growth from last year!!! The adult ticket price is now $25 and it's a 25% damn increase since 2007 from $20!!! At the same time, TDC cashes in from the exhibitors' rents. They also manage to increase the rents every year. I still remember there were some small second hand book shops in the Fair 10 years ago, but you see now, super big bookstore chains take all the best positions and occupy a few columns each. Who can do business more aggressively than property tycoons? It's the govt itself, or those quasi-govt organisations that are not responsible to the govt. By the way, readers, three of the biggest bookstore chains in Hong Kong are under the same company. Our choice of reading is more or less in the hands of this company. Just like Maxim's, the local catering giant that sells us all the food we need day and night.

The Pearl now is losing its shine and becoming yellowish because the spectrum of light spotting shifted; it's no longer in a balanced position where all wavelengths of light converge. Think again, who should be blamed on this? The govt? Or the Villagers ourselves?

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