As the great Richard Pryor once said, “People are people, all over the world… they fck with your luggage in Nairobi just like they fck with your luggage in Newark.” And every society has its own workarounds for the universal belief that Tha Gubmint doesn’t want you to know THE TRUTH. Of course, citizens in the PRC have far more reason to be suspicious of their appointed oligarchs:
… The People’s Recreation Community bookstore and several others on Hong Kong’s teeming shopping streets specialize in selling books and magazines banned by the Chinese government, mostly for their luridly damning accounts of party leaders, past and present. And at a time when many Chinese citizens smolder with distrust of their leaders, business is thriving.
“We come here to buy books that we can’t read in China,” said Huang Tao, a salesman of nutritional supplements from southeast China, who picked out a muckraking volume recently about corruption among senior party leaders. “There are so many things that we’ve been deceived over,” he said, waving toward books on the devastating famine of the late 1950s and early 1960s, an episode that official histories have muffled in euphemisms. “We can’t learn the truth, so black becomes white and white becomes black.” …
They contain accounts of every conceivable scandal of the past. Then there are the gloomy prophecies about China’s future. One book foretells a war with Japan in 2014, another a toppling of the current leadership that same year. The strongest seller among these feverish jeremiads, “2014: The Great Collapse,” says the fall of the Communist Party is assured, citing what it says are secret party documents. “This is not gossip or soothsaying,” the preface declares…
“It’s like when your National Enquirer becomes your only form of political discussion,” said Geremie Barmé, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra who studies Chinese culture and politics. “This is a tragedy that the party has generated for itself. Its processes are all cloaked from the public.”
Yet many readers of banned publications from Hong Kong are themselves Chinese officials, often eager for gossip that can help them navigate treacherous political shoals. The books and magazines are surviving the onslaught of online material in part because so many of their readers are officials who fear using the Internet to look at forbidden material or lack the skill to thwart censorship, said Mr. Tang.
“You don’t have to read the People’s Daily, because that won’t tell you what’s really going on, but you have to read these,” said Ho Pin, an exiled Chinese journalist who runs Mirror Books, a company based in New York that publishes muckraking books and magazines in Chinese. Chinese officials visiting Hong Kong often buy them as gifts for fellow officials, he said. “In the past, you’d give a mayor a bottle of liquor. But that’s nothing these days, and so is a carton of cigarettes,” Mr. Ho said. “But if you give him one of our books or magazines, he’ll be very happy.”
Somewhere inside the Beltway, Jonathan Karl is weeping for missed opportunities.