Tuesday 24 October 2017

Nobel winner backs Chinese censors

The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Mo Yan of China (AP/Janerik Henriksson)
The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Mo Yan of China (AP/Janerik Henriksson)

Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan, criticised for his membership of China's Communist Party and reluctance to speak out against his government, has defended censorship, comparing it to airport security checks.

He also suggested he would not join an appeal calling for the release of jailed 2010 peace prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, a fellow writer and compatriot.

Mr Mo has been criticised by human rights activists for not being a more outspoken defender of freedom of speech and for supporting the Communist Party-backed writers' association, of which he is vice president.

His latest comments, made during a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, appeared unlikely to soften his critics' views. Awarding him the literature prize has also brought criticism from previous winners. Herta Mueller, the 2009 literature laureate, called the jury's choice of Mr Mo a "catastrophe" last month.

China's rulers forbid opposition parties and maintain strict control over all media.

Mr Mo said he did not feel that censorship should stand in the way of truth but that any defamation or rumours "should be censored". "But I also hope that censorship, per se, should have the highest principle," he said in comments translated by an interpreter from Chinese into English.

Mr Mo is spending several days in Stockholm before receiving his prestigious prize in an awards ceremony on Monday. He won the Nobel for his sprawling tales of life in rural China. In its citation, the jury said Mr Mo "with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary".

In addressing the sensitive issue of censorship in China, Mr Mo likened it to the thorough security procedures he was subjected to as he travelled to Stockholm. "When I was taking my flight, going through the customs ... they also wanted to check me - even taking off my belt and shoes," he said. "But I think these checks are necessary."

He also dodged questions about jailed Peace Prize winner Mr Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending China's single-party rule and enacting democratic reforms.

China's reception of the two Nobel laureates has been worlds apart. While it rejected the honour bestowed on Mr Liu, calling it a desecration of the Nobel tradition, it welcomed Mr Mo's win with open arms, saying it reflected "the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China".

Press Association

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