TAIPEI, Taiwan — Inside a hushed bookstore in central Taipei one current evening, Ju Lee-wen stood beneath a big black banner that mentioned “Revolution Now!” and raised her fist into the air.
Ms. Ju, a 26-year-old lawyer, is worried by China’s more and more authoritarian insurance policies, together with harsh new safety legal guidelines in Hong Kong. She went to Causeway Bay Books, an irreverent store stocked with volumes important of the Chinese language Communist Celebration, to indicate her assist for democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We now have to struggle to guard our freedom and our future,” Ms. Ju mentioned.
Causeway Bay Books, which occupies a cramped room on the 10th ground of a colorless workplace constructing, has in current weeks change into a gathering place for folks apprehensive about the way forward for Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that China claims as its personal. As China’s leaders lead a sweeping crackdown on free speech and activism in Hong Kong, fears are rising that Beijing could transfer to extra aggressively carry Taiwan, too, below its management.
A whole lot of individuals come to the shop every week to peruse books forbidden within the mainland. They choose up exposés on the personal lives of China’s leaders, historic accounts of occasions just like the Tiananmen Sq. bloodbath and dystopian novels like George Orwell’s “1984.”
One e book about China’s highly effective chief, Xi Jinping, is titled, “The Zombie Who Guidelines the Nation.”
Standing beneath banners calling for independence for Hong Kong, guests take part occasional chants of, “Combat for freedom!” On a wall of colourful sticky notes close to the entrance door, they write withering criticisms of China. “Tyranny should die,” says one be aware.
Causeway Bay Books has change into an emblem of Taiwan’s vibrant democracy at a time when the island is trying to promote itself as an alternative to China’s authoritarian system. The president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, visited recently, as have scores of government workers, students and commentators who are critical of China.
“It’s like a lighthouse of a free society,” said Leo Hong, 38, an employee at a state-owned company who visited one recent night to buy a book of photographs documenting antigovernment protests in Hong Kong last year.
The store straddles the line between mom-and-pop shop and political war room, with delicate floral wallpaper juxtaposed with stark banners declaring, “Free Hong Kong.”
Many people come to catch a glimpse of Lam Wing-kee, the owner and manager, a bookseller from Hong Kong who fled to Taiwan last year. Mr. Lam was one of five booksellers who were abducted by the Chinese authorities in 2015 for selling books critical of the ruling party. He was detained and spent five months in solitary confinement.
“He wants to let Taiwanese people know what kind of regime the Chinese Communist Party is,” said Chen Tsai-neng, 55, a radio show host who visits frequently. Mr. Chen said he often discusses China’s history of authoritarianism with Mr. Lam and other customers.
“He wants to tell people that the Chinese Communist Party and the individuals who are in power behind this cultural tradition are unreliable,” Mr. Chen said.
Mr. Lam opened the Taipei store in April, reviving the name of his old store in Hong Kong. From noon to 9 p.m. each day, he wanders around the store recommending books to customers, slipping out regularly to smoke on a balcony. The store doubles as his home; he sleeps on a bunk bed behind a cashier’s desk.
Mr. Lam said he wants the people of Taiwan to have a place where they can reflect on the challenges facing the island, including China’s efforts to isolate it politically.
“Taiwan is unstable right now,” he said. “And one thing is clear: China is giving Taiwan this instability.”
The bookstore has its share of critics. Some believe the selection of books offers a skewed portrait of modern China, focusing too much on negative portrayals.
The store has also ignited debate about whether Taiwan should accept political refugees like Mr. Lam. Ms. Tsai and her governing Democratic Progressive Party have vowed to help more activists from Hong Kong find shelter in Taiwan. Some members of the opposition party, the Kuomintang, believe such a move risks retaliation by Beijing.
Mr. Lam has become a target. In April, shortly before opening the store, two men attacked him with purple paint as he walked to a breakfast store in Taipei. The lads have been later arrested.
As tensions with the mainland rise, many guests say they really feel a way of camaraderie on the retailer, the place they talk about points like army coverage and whether or not Taiwan ought to search formal independence, a transfer that Beijing has lengthy adamantly resisted. Some fear about the opportunity of a army battle by which Taiwan could be caught within the center, if relations between China and america proceed to deteriorate.
The Chinese language authorities’s resolution in June to impose sweeping nationwide safety legal guidelines in Hong Kong, giving the authorities broad powers to crack down on quite a lot of political crimes, has galvanized many Taiwanese to talk out.
“Some assume what has been taking place in Hong Kong is a glimpse into Taiwan’s future,” mentioned Chen Wei-nung, 36, who works part-time at a public opinion survey firm.
The collections of sticky notes close to the doorway mimic similar displays created last year by protesters in Hong Kong. There are doodles of Mr. Xi wearing a crown and quotes from Captain America. Ms. Tsai, Taiwan’s leader, left a note during her visit that read, “A free Taiwan supports Hong Kong’s liberty.”
Ms. Ju, the lawyer who visited the store recently, purchased a book on China’s internet controls as well as a history of the Hong Kong protests. Before she left, she stopped to write a message on the wall of sticky notes.
“Freedom forever,” she wrote. “Freedom for Taiwan.”