The sudden publication of Zhao Ziyang’s hidden diaries, in time for the 20th anniversary of June 4th 1989, reminded me of the occasion a couple of years ago when a human rights barrister in Hong Kong went to print with a book about the right to demonstrate. The text covered examples of rallies and demonstrations from around the world, but the image chosen for the cover was the famous tank man of Tiananmen Square. The Chinese printer refused to handle the book.

We usually print our books in China. Since the white-elephant bridge to Shekou was built, the print works in Shenzhen is less than two hours door-to-door from our office. (Thanks, construction cartel!) Generally we’ve found that you can print whatever you like in China. As long as it’s in English, and thereby meaningless to most Chinese citizens, the mainland government has no interest.

We printed Whispers and Moans with a rather salacious cover and had no problems, despite the subject of the book (prostitution and the movement of working girls from China to Hong Kong) being distinctly unharmonious. But when we went to print with CHINA: Portrait of a People, a book of photography with no political message, the printer refused the job for fear of hidden undertones. It seems a picture really does speak a thousand words when it comes to self-censorship.

Getting back to Zhao Ziyang, it’s surprising that his audio transcripts are available online and haven’t been blocked by the Great Firewall, as discussed on Danwei. But go to the Granite Studio for a list of possible revelations from Zhao’s diaries.