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Hong Kong book fair packs political punch

The Hong Kong Book Fair opened its doors Wednesday with hundreds of thousands expected to attend the seven-day show, packed with everything from cute cartoons to cutting-edge political satire.

HONG KONG: The Hong Kong Book Fair opened its doors Wednesday with hundreds of thousands expected to attend the seven-day show, packed with everything from cute cartoons to cutting-edge political satire.

Some book stalls reflected the heightened tensions in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, where fears are growing over what is seen as increasing interference by Beijing and where pressure for democratic elections is growing.

At the Subculture Ltd stand a poster with the words "Love Hong Kong, not the (Communist) Party" promoted a new book from the local publisher, renowned for its political titles.

"We don't publish books to confront. We are just trying to make fun and tease C Y Leung (Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying)," said the head of Subculture, Jimmy Pang Chi-ming.

"Nowadays, very few people speak out for Hong Kong. Officials are not representing Hong Kongers but following orders."

The fair also attracts readers from mainland China seeking books banned at home.

Hong Kong's Greenfield Book Store was selling a number of titles on political scandals in China, as well as uncensored histories of Communist China's late founder Mao Zedong.

"It's much freer in Hong Kong, where different voices are tolerated. You also find books banned on the mainland," said Iris Zhong, 35, who grew up in the Chinese city of Guangzhou and now lives in Hong Kong where she works for a trading company.

"I think I have the right to know about history based on evidence and different ideologies," she said.

For others, the fair was simply a chance to get away from the office and pick up some bargains, whether a Dickens classic or a graphic novel.

"I come here every year and mostly buy cookery books -- I always take the day off work and don't mind queueing. The books here are cheaper than in the shops and there's a better choice," said clerk Emma Wong, 30.

In an age of digital publishing, book fans at the fair carried rucksacks or dragged suitcases on wheels filled with the real thing.

The fair -- one of the biggest events of its kind in Asia -- is in its 25th year and sees exhibitors from 31 countries, organisers said.

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