The much-awaited publication of the memoirs by the former Chinese Premier Li Peng, which detailed controversial events leading up to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, has hit a roadblock, after the Hong Kong publisher has been forced to halt the book’s release.
About 20,000 Chinese-language copies of The Tiananmen Diary of Li Peng had initially been scheduled to go on sale in Hong Kong on June 22, but Bao Pu, of New Century Press, stopped the presses on Friday because he did not have copyright ownership, reports Reuters.
Reuters obtained an advance copy of the memoirs in which Li reveals that China's former leader Deng Xiaoping, said the government had to "spill some blood" to quell the June 4, 1989, protests.
The memoirs were written in 2004, but have been suppressed by the Chinese leaders who have sought to erase any reference to the bloody crackdown that led to the deaths of thousands.
"Relevant institutions provided information related to copyright (ownership) before publication. According to Hong Kong copyright laws, we have no choice but to scrap our original publication plans," Bao told Reuters by telephone from the former British colony on Saturday.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but retains a high degree of autonomy under the handover agreement.
Bao has not commented on how much losses he estimated he would incur and what he planned to do with books already printed. He did say that he “was surprised” by the level of Chinese intervention to stop the publication.
Chinese officials have made no public comments to either confirm or deny the memoirs' authenticity. However, Bao is certain that the memoirs are the real thing.
"We have reason to believe that Li Peng himself wrote this book and is willing to have it published, but his publication rights were deprived by a third party—the [Chinese] Communist Party's Politburo," Bao said, referring to the Party's 25-member decision-making body, reports Reuters.
Hong Kong "laws do not regulate whether publication under such conditions is permitted," Bao said.
"The memoirs have historical value and significance and the public have a willingness to know," he added. "Hence, it's very natural for us to decide to publish them. It was a prudent decision."
Bao has already struck a nerve with the communist leadership after he published memoirs by Zhao Ziyang last year. Zhao is believed to have been the only politburo member who urged the authorities to reason with the protesting students and tried to prevent bloodshed.
Zhao was later placed under house arrest, spending the last 15 years of his life locked inside his house until his death in 2005. His memories of the turbulent times were recorded onto cassettes and smuggled into Hong Kong.
Bao is the son of Bao Tong, Zhao's top aide in 1989 and the most senior Chinese official jailed for sympathizing with protesters. Bao Tong was imprisoned for seven years and remains under tight police surveillance in Beijing.