A former manager at the now-shuttered Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong who was detained in mainland China for selling banned books says he will likely open a new store in democratic Taiwan by the end of the year.
Lam Wing-kei's project hit its crowd-funding target of nearly U.S.$90,000 last week on the fundraising platform FlyingV, he said via the Causeway Bay Books Taiwan page on Facebook.
Lam had earlier projected reaching that goal by Nov. 5. Around 80 percent of donations to the project came from Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
"In future, please give me the opportunity to thank you personally," he wrote.
Lam has his eye on a location in Ximending, a bustling downtown tourist area in Taiwan's capital Taipei.
"What Causeway Bay Books cannot do or was prohibited from doing in Hong Kong will be carried out in free Taiwan," according to Lam's FlyingV fundraising page.
Lam says he decided to go ahead with the store to give the next generation of readers the "cultural competency" to defy dictatorship.
Lam was among five booksellers detained by Chinese police for selling banned political books to customers across the internal border in mainland China.
Kidnapped by China?
The detentions were widely criticized by overseas governments, as none of the booksellers had broken any laws in Hong Kong, where they lived and worked, and at least two of them were taken back to China in dubious circumstances.
Lam told RFA he had been surprised at the level of funding the project had attracted.
"I didn't really pay it any mind to begin with, because I have had a lot of other work to do lately," he said. "I didn't even take a look until a friend told me the response had been excellent. I got quite a shock."
He said the Chinese Communist Party had destroyed the first bookstore, and was now trying to destroy free-thinking among the seven million residents of Hong Kong.
"Now, we are going to rebuild it in Taiwan, which is hugely symbolic," Lam said. "It won't just sell books; we also plan to build a communication platform, and invite scholars to debate various issues regarding mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan."
Lam said the anti-extradition protests that have gripped Hong Kong since early June have had a huge impact on the city's youth, citing recent reports of protester suicides.
"The people of Taiwan know only too well the huge price paid by the Hong Kong protesters," Lam said. "Whatever methods China uses to suppress Hong Kong will also be the methods they use to bring Taiwan under its control, so this is a pretty dangerous time for Taiwan."
'Huge symbolic meaning'
Neema Liu, a project manager at FlyingV, said she had spent a couple of months soliciting opinions about the project before it launched.
"It did very well after going live because we made those connections," Liu said. "When we were talking to some of our partner organizations about it, we could tell that there was a lot of interest in this thing, because it has huge symbolic meaning."
Two of Lam's colleagues at the now-shuttered Causeway Bay Books store, Lee Bo and Gui Minhai, are foreign passport-holders who went missing outside China's borders: British national Lee Bo from his workplace in Hong Kong and Swedish national Gui Minhai from Thailand.
Colleagues Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, like Lam, were detained as soon as they crossed the border into China.
Gui was released from his initial sentence and house arrest in the eastern city of Ningbo, but was later snatched by state security police from a train, where he was en route to Beijing in the company of two Swedish diplomats.
He now faces fresh charges of supplying “state secrets” to overseas organizations, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Lam, who has been the most outspoken of the detainees, speaking out in defiance of gag orders imposed by Chinese police, fled to Taiwan after giving a large number of media interviews, amid concerns that he may be detained again or kidnapped while in Hong Kong.
He has also sought to warn Taiwan's 23 million residents that what Beijing really means when it insists on "unification" with Taiwan along the same lines as Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" arrangement is ever-increasing control by the Chinese Communist Party over every aspect of their lives.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Tam Siu-yin for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.