In an incredibly ironic twist of fate, a book constitutionalism written by a well-known liberal thinker disappeared from the mainland ahead of China’s Constitution Day which took place on Friday.
According to the New York Times, the book “Out of Imperialism” by Qin Hui, a professor at Tsinghua University, had garnered considerable attention since its release earlier this year. In it he explores how following the collapse of the Qing imperial order, the promise of constitutional democracy went unfulfilled.
Mr. Qin confirmed to the paper that his book had been pulled from book stores by telephone, but refused to comment any further.
China’s Constitution Day was celebrated for the first time last year on December 4 to mark the date on which the country’s top legislature adopted the current Constitution in 1982. State media is quoted as saying the event aims to “enhance social awareness of the Constitution, promote its spirit and strengthen its implementation.
It seems, however, that the Communist Party wishes the interpretation of the document to remain firmly within its grasp. China’s biggest online bookseller (dangdang.com) has deleted any webpages featuring the book along with other popular retailers such as Taobao and JD.com.
Amazon’s Chinese website states that the book is out of stock, but one rather sarcastic excerpt from a review of the book reads:
Last Friday I bought a copy and planned to check back a few days later, but I never thought that it would have disappeared from the web. I think there can only be two reasons: either too many people have bought the book or it’s content is untimely (and by that I mean too timely). Either way, it must be a good book.
2015 has turned out to be a bad year for constitutionalism in general, with a planned exhibition on the Magna Carta due to be held at Renmin University abruptly cancelled and moved to the British Ambassador’s residence in Beijing.