Print Project Confiscated At Chinese Border
Sally Taylor -- 9/4/00

International press uproar resulted last week when the New York Times reported that a book on President Clinton was held up at the southern Chinese border by custom officials. Printed in Hong Kong and bound in Shenzhen by suppliers brokered by San Francisco-based Palace Press International, The Clinton Years by Robert McNeely was published by Callaway and includes a photo of Clinton meeting with the Dalai Lama. While a first shipment got through the border, the second did not.

The Dalai Lama is well known as a politically sensitive subject to the Chinese government. Many Hong Kong printers would have automatically done the project outside of China for that reason. But Gordon Goff of Palace Press told PW that another book on the Dalai Lama himself had come in and out of the huge printing and packaging center in China with no problems a few years ago. Goff blames the seizure on a recent change in administrative staff at the border, which has a mandate to clean up previous corrupt practices and follow China's formal policies.

China, together with Hong Kong, is the primary place for printing American books outside the country. People in the trade understand the taboo subjects, which include sexual promiscuity and political protesters like the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet movement. With border inspectors now on the alert, more books from Callaway were seized: Celestial Gallery,featuring representations of Tibetan art known as mandalas, and a collection of the photographer Max Badukul, with two nudes.

All the publicity will probably change very little of the Chinese government's position on political issues it considers internal matters. But it could have a substantial impact on Hong Kong's vital export printing links with China and many print brokers in the U.S.

Goff reports that Palace Press is making good on its contract, reprinting the Clinton book in Hong Kong and this time binding it in Hong Kong as well.