Lawmaker Regina Ip in London: Hong Kong’s declining bookstore industry raises concerns for English proficiency and cultural development

Regina Ip

3rd October 2023 – (London) Regina Ip, the 73-year-old Convenor of the Executive Council and a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, is currently in London, where she recently wrote an article reflecting on the growing number of bookstores in the city and their significance for cultural development.

London, often hailed as the cultural capital, offers a vibrant atmosphere with its diverse range of stage plays, musicals, and captivating performances. The city’s rich history and culture are also evident in its numerous museums, including the world-renowned British Museum. With its extensive collection, featuring iconic exhibits such as mummies and the Rosetta Stone, the British Museum is a must-visit destination for tourists, particularly during holidays. London is also home to other prominent museums like the Tate Modern, focusing on contemporary art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, housing millions of artifacts and offering free admission. Additionally, the city boasts several private art galleries, making it a thriving hub for the arts.

One notable aspect of London is its abundance of bookstores, a feature that caught Regina Ip’s attention during her visit. Regardless of where one goes, it seems that there is always a bookstore “just around the corner.” The sheer number of bookstores in London is overwhelming, making it virtually impossible to visit them all. Many of these bookstores offer a wide selection of books that may not be readily available in Hong Kong. In contrast, the book market in Hong Kong has been in decline, with a dwindling number of bookstores. Even dedicated English bookstores like Swindon Book Co. Ltd have closed their physical stores and shifted to online operations, as was the case in July 2020. The closure of once-thriving bookstores like Page One has left a disheartening void in the city.

Books play a crucial role in acquiring knowledge, and the decline of the bookstore industry in Hong Kong has had detrimental effects on the cultural development of the younger generation. This is evident in the declining number of candidates taking the English Literature subject in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination in recent years. Such a trend indicates a diminishing interest among Hong Kong students in reading literary works. If this continues, it may weaken the English proficiency of the next generation, potentially undermining Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness as an international metropolis. Enhancing the English language proficiency of Hong Kong’s youth is therefore of utmost importance. Classic literary works teach us elegant rhetorical techniques, enable us to appreciate profound meanings between the lines, and help us grasp the philosophical thinking behind the works. Regina Ip hopes that the Education Bureau will carefully consider how to foster the younger generation’s interest in reading and provide bookstores with a larger space to survive.

During her visit to London, Regina Ip had a fruitful experience exploring bookstores and even purchased several rare books. She expresses her intention to share her thoughts on these books with everyone in the future, highlighting the value of literary discussions and the intellectual enrichment that comes from reading.