China And The Frankfurt Book Fair
(Frankfurt Book Fair) Statement from Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair on the current discussions about Guest of Honour China September 15, 2009.
10 September 2009
The international symposium ˇ§China and the World ˇV Perceptions and Realitiesˇ¨ will take place in Frankfurt this coming weekend. Under this motto, intellectuals, scholars, authors and journalists from China, Germany and Spain will gather in one place to offer extraordinary insight into Chinaˇ¦s modern reality. The symposium will be hosted by the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Organizing Committee China ˇV Guest of Honour Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, and in co-operation with the P.E.N. Centre Germany, along with the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the Instituto Cervantes.
The objective of the symposium is to facilitate dialogue with official China, but also with authors and intellectuals like Mo Yan or Xu Xing.
A requirement for the realisation of the symposium was that the partners mutually agree on a list of topics and discussion participants. At the request of the Guest of Honour China organisation committee, Dai Qing and Bei Ling were stricken from the list of participants. It was only under these conditions that official China was prepared to participate in this event.
Organiser of the symposium Peter Ripken came to an agreement via telephone with Dai Qing and Bei Ling not to jeopardise the realisation of the symposium and thus to accept the non-participation of Dai Qing and Bei Ling. The symposium is one of the few events that the Frankfurt Book Fair is organising together with the Guest of Honour China organisation committee and other partners. The goal is to speak with each other and not over each other. Official China is also the subject of the debate.
The official programme of Guest of Honour China, with its hundreds of events, is the sole responsibility of Guest of Honour China and is financed, organised and carried out by the Guest of Honour. The Book Fair co-ordinates and advises with this. In addition, there are about the same number of events being organised independently by publishers, the media, NGOs, foundation and associations. By our calculations, there will be a total of about 500 events on the subject of China.
In the past few days, the debate in the German press has been about whether the Frankfurt Book Fair allowed itself to be pressured by its Guest of Honour China regarding the participant list of the symposium. The Frankfurt Book Fair will not allow itself to be pressured by anyone and, as a part of the German and international publishing industry, stands for freedom of speech, of expression and of the press throughout the world. With 7,000 publishers, 300,000 visitors and around 10,000 journalists, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a public forum that cannot be manipulated.
In the case of the symposium, we decided, under difficult circumstances and after consulting with the co-operation partners, to allow the conversation to go forward and not to cancel the event.
According to our information, it is possible that Dai Qing will now come to Frankfurt this weekend as a visitor and participate at the symposium. We are eager to start the discussions this weekend and to exchange thoughts with you on the subject of China. I am looking forward to hearing your questions, comments and suggestions.
Best regards, Juergen Boos Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair
11 September 2009
The reports on the international symposium "China and the World - Perceptions and Realities" have struck me.
I very much regret and am personally angered by the fact that it has come to this in the run-up to the event - to unnecessary mistakes and compromises in the organisation and communication of the symposium on our part. This has also led to misunderstandings and agitation in the public debate.
This afternoon, Peter Ripken, who is responsible for the the symposium programme, will pick up Dai Qing at the Frankfurt Airport. And I expect that Bei Ling will also come to Frankfurt and will participate in the symposium. I am pleased about this and I also expect an intensive dialogue to result from the discussion about the participation of both intellectuals.
We continue to rely upon dialogue with all of our partners - authors and intellectuals from China and from other countries, P.E.N., official China and, of course, with the media.
I assure you that the Frankfurt Book Fair firmly espouses the freedom of speech, of expression and of the press.
Yours, Juergen Boos Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair Juergen.firstname.lastname@example.org
12 September 2009
After an emotional start to the symposium this morning, we are now where we wanted to be. The dialogue has begun.
Dai Qing and Bei Ling have had a lot expected of them over the past few days and weeks due to mistakes in the organisation and communication of the symposium. It was important to me and to P.E.N. to give them both the opportunity to make a statement at the start of the event. This led to a programme change that could not be communicated to all of the event partners in a timely manner.
For this reason, part of the Chinese delegation left the conference hall prior to the statements made by Dai Qing and Bei Ling. I apologised to the Chinese organisation committee for not having communicated the programme change, whereupon the Chinese delegation returned to the conference hall.
It is important to me to conduct an open dialogue with all of the participants - the intellectuals, the authors and scholars, the participants of the official delegation and the media who have travelled here. I am very glad that this has been accomplished successfully after the initial difficulties.
The first two panels, in which Dai Qing and Bei Ling participated alongside representatives of official China and P.E.N., initiated a very sophisticated exchange of ideas. My wish is that the weeks leading up to the Book Fair and, of course, the Fair itself will be much influenced by this critical discourse.
Best regards, Juergen Boos Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair Juergen.email@example.com
15 September 2009
The question of whether the Book Fair itself could be subject to censorship or even engage in censorship, is false. The Book Fair is a marketplace for freedom, and ensures, through its very structure - with around 7,000 publishers, 2,900 events and 10,000 journalists - that censorship will not take place.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is not only a platform for Guest of Honour China, but also a podium for authors, books and publishers, for controversial positions from all nations. The thesis put forth by the Guest of Honour provokes an equally strong antithesis: The independent, the other China can be experienced in around 250 events. We have invited the Chinese Nobel Prize winner for Literature Gao Xingjian, who lives in Paris and was banned from publication in China, to our International Centre. Poet Yang Lian, who lives in London, will talk about living and writing in two cultures along with Gao Xingjian. Another important event will be the discussion about freedom of expression and of the press, using China as an example, with the Uyghur P.E.N. President Abdulrusul ÖzHun, who lives in exile in Sweden, along with the critical literary journalist Xu Xiao, among others. The President of the World Uyghur Congress is also expected to attend the Fair. The artist Ai Weiwei will be there, as will journalist Xue Xinran, who lives in London. Authors from Hong Kong - such as Leung Ping-kwan - and from Taiwan - like Chang Ta-Chun - are expected. The topic of Tibet will be discussed at numerous events, not least in the reading on the Sunday of the Fair entitled ˇ§Forbidden Readingˇ¨ or in the discussion hosted by the Tibet Initiative Germany, ˇ§Tibet blogged - Chinaˇ¦s fear of the freedom of expressionˇ¨, at which Kelsang Gyaltsen, the emissary of the Dalai Lama, will also be in attendance. Each day around midday, the P.E.N. Centre Germany will host a ˇ§Chinese hourˇ¨ with authors who are part of the Independent Chinese Centre in Hall 3.1. This series of events will also focus on solidarity with the author Liu Xiaobo, who has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than nine months.
The symposium was a test run and clearly showed that the need for discussion about China is enormous. It was once again made clear to me personally that the Frankfurt Book Fair has a balancing act ahead of it with Guest of Honour China, which will require fortitude. We want to create a platform for the most diverse and extreme points of view and, in doing so, facilitate dialogue. This generates pressure from all sides, from which we cannot retreat. This pressure can and should serve as the engine of a productive public discussion. Our goal is to have a dialogue both with official China, as well as with authors, academics, intellectuals from China and abroad. We will experience Chinaˇ¦s literature and culture impartially.
Official China told us through former ambassador Mei Zhaorong at the symposium: ˇ§We did not come to be instructed about democracy.ˇ¨ Democracy and freedom of expression always involve friction and the scandal over the weekend was only the beginning of a democratic dispute that lies ahead for Guest of Honour China. The Frankfurt Book Fair is not offering instruction in democracy, to be sure, but it is democracy in action. These are the rules of the game of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The compromise of our project manager to speak with authors Dai Qing and Bei Ling and suggest to them an alternative to a public appearance at the symposium, was wrong. For this I have apologised to the authors and the public. The Frankfurt Book Fair does not compromise to the detriment of freedom of expression. Facilitating dialogue is not easy. We have always been aware of this and the symposium confirmed this. Dialogue is, however, the right way and the only way.
Best regards, Juergen Boos Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair Juergen.firstname.lastname@example.org
(Bookseller.com) Boos defends decision to block Chinese dissidents from fair event September 11, 2009.
Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, has defended the decision to ban Chinese writers Dai Qing and Bei Ling from attending an international symposium on China to be held in Frankfurt this weekend. Boos confirmed reports that the Chinese delegation threatened to pull out if the two dissidents were allowed to participate. "It was only under these conditions that official China was prepared to participate in this event," he said, in a written statement. But Boos stressed: "The Frankfurt Book Fair will not allow itself to be pressured by anyone and, as a part of the German and international publishing industry, stands for freedom of speech, of expression and of the press throughout the world. With 7,000 publishers, 300,000 visitors and around 10,000 journalists, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a public forum that cannot be manipulated."
But said that the organiser of the symposium Peter Ripken came to an agreement via telephone with Dai Qing and Bei Ling not to jeopardise the symposium. Boos stated: "In the case of the symposium, we decided, under difficult circumstances and after consulting with the co-operation partners, to allow the conversation to go forward and not to cancel the event."
The symposium is one of the few events that the Frankfurt Book Fair is organising together with the guest of honour China. Boos said the goal was to "speak with each other and not over each other". There are reports that both authors intend to travel to the event, and attend it as guests, rather than speakers. According to the German media, Dai Qing boarded a plane to Frankfurt after being forced to buy a new ticket at the last minute.
The symposium, entitled ˇ¨China and the World - Perceptions and Realities," will be hosted by the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Organising Committee China, in co-operation with the PEN Centre Germany, along with the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the Instituto Cervantes. The decision to strike the two writers from the list of participants has caused widespread criticism in Germany.
(Global Times) German media rips China for flexing muscles in book fair. By Duan Congcong. September 11, 2009.
German media Thursday said China was flexing its muscles during the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair after Chinese delegates forced the German organizer to bar two foreign writers from the event.
As an appetizer before the fair, a symposium themed "China and the world ˇV perceptions and realities" will take place this weekend.
Scholars from both China and Germany will discuss topics related to what the perception of China is outside the country and how China sees itself in relation to other regions and powers.
Frankfurt Mayor Petra Roth, chairman of the book fair Juergen Boos, and former Chinese ambassador Mei Zhaorong will attend the symposium.
However, German organizers also invited two writers deemed unpopular by Chinese readers, which caused strong complaints from Chinese scholars and writers.
Representatives from the Chinese General Administration of Press and PublicationˇVco-organizer of the event ˇV delivered their objections to their German counterparts, who later withdrew the invitation to those two writers.
A long story in the Der Spiegel Thursday criticized China over the canceled invitation. It said that having China join the event has become more and more troublesome because it likes to add pressure. The Deutsche Presse Agentur Thursday echoed those sentiments with a story saying China likes to flex its muscles.
"We have withdrawn the invitation," Peter Ripken, organizer of the symposium, told the Global Times. "But one of the writers has been granted a visa from the German Foreign Ministry. My colleague is now negotiating with Beijing."
"The German media is overacting on this issue," he added.
The Chinese delegation, composed of 12 publishing house groups, presented 4,000 books in a 500-square-meter area at the fair, which has a theme of "Education for the Future," according to the Xinhua News Agency.
(Deutsche Welle) Furore over Chinese dissidents at Frankfurt Book Fair symposium September 12, 2009.
The two writers travelled to Frankfurt though their invitations to the symposium had been revoked after criticism from Beijing. When Bei Ling and Dai Qing on Saturday addressed the symposium, the official Chinese delegation left the room in protest. The delegation returned only after an apology from Juergen Boos, organizer of the book fair. Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, said the German hosts had changed the program of the symposium without informing the delegation from Beijing. "We did not come here for a lesson in democracy," Mei said. "Those times are over." The two dissident authors in turn expressed their disappointment at the Chinese reaction, saying that such behavior would undermine any constructive discussion.
The symposium, entitled "China and the world - perception and reality," was initially intended to clear up prejudices about the guest country - China - ahead of the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins in mid-October. The event had been intended as a promotional preamble but soon became a PR nightmare when China made it clear that if the organizers persisted in including dissident writers, it would pull out of the symposium altogether.
The fair's organizers bowed to Chinese pressure and Bei Ling, Dai Qing and several other dissident authors found that their invitations had been revoked.
Dai Qing, considered to be one of China's leading investigative journalists and environmental activists, managed to get a German visa as the guest of the German branch of the PEN club of independent writers.
When Dai got to the airport, however, she found that her plane ticket had been mysteriously cancelled, despite the fact that she'd twice phoned the travel company to confirm. "They tried so hard to keep me from Frankfurt," Dai said ahead of the symposium. "When you hold an international symposium in Frankfurt, it should be about giving Chinese authors a voice when the central theme is Chinese literature," she added. "The authorities must give some clear arguments as to why I shouldn't be allowed to express my thoughts."
The organizers of the world's largest book fair have come under heavy criticism from writers and politicians alike. However, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair defended the decision to revoke symposium invitations as a necessary compromise.
China might have its way at the symposium, Fair director Juergen Boos argued, but the annual book fair would be a different matter. "Content at the Frankfurt Book Fair cannot be supervised," he said.
This assurance is, however, unlikely to satisfy the author Bei Ling, who feels that the affair has seriously damaged the event's credibility. Bei was arrested in China in 2000 for "illegal publications" but was released shortly afterward following US intervention. He had been planning to speak about censorship and self-censorship at the symposium. "I feel it is a shame if the Frankfurt Book Fair cannot say 'no' or they cannot control this," Bei told the dpa news agency. "They decided this year for China to be the guest country, so they have to face all these complicated situations. But some rules they cannot turn back, like freedom of expression."
(Bookseller.com) Chinese dissidents prompt book fair walk out By Philip Jones. September 14, 2009.
The Frankfurt Book Fair caused a diplomatic stir on Saturday after going back on its decision to stop two Chinese dissidents, Bei Ling and Dai Qing, appearing at a symposium about China ahead of the book fair. Their appearance at the event caused the official Chinese delegation to walk out, with the delegation only agreeing to return after an apology from Juergen Boos, director of the book fair.
Boos said the Chinese delegation left after the "programme change [had not been] communicated to all of the event partners in a timely manner". He added: "For this reason, part of the Chinese delegation left the conference hall prior to the statements made by Dai Qing and Bei Ling. I apologised to the Chinese organisation committee for not having communicated the programme change, whereupon the Chinese delegation returned to the conference hall."
Boos had initially agreed to revoke the invitations to the two dissidents on the insistence of the Chinese delegation in order to "allow the conversation to go forward". But in the second of three statements made by Boos in the past five days, he admitted he had been personally "struck" by reaction to the controversy. He added: "I very much regret and am personally angered by the fact that it has come to this in the run-up to the event - to unnecessary mistakes and compromises in the organisation and communication of the symposium on our part. This has also led to misunderstandings and agitation in the public debate."
When Bei Ling and Dai Qing on Saturday addressed the symposium, the official Chinese delegation left the room in protest. Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, told German newspapers that the German hosts had changed the program of the symposium without informing the delegation from Beijing. "We did not come here for a lesson in democracy," Mei said. "Those times are over."
Bei told the dpa news agency the decision to initially revoke the dissidents' invitations would hurt the book fair's image: "I feel it is a shame if the Frankfurt Book Fair cannot say 'no' or they cannot control this. They decided this year for China to be the guest country, so they have to face all these complicated situations. But some rules they cannot turn back, like freedom of expression."
In a third statement, Boos stated: "Dai Qing and Bei Ling have had a lot expected of them over the past few days and weeks due to mistakes in the organisation and communication of the symposium. It was important to me and to P.E.N. to give them both the opportunity to make a statement at the start of the event . . . It is important to me to conduct an open dialogue with all of the participants - the intellectuals, the authors and scholars, the participants of the official delegation and the media who have travelled here. I am very glad that this has been accomplished successfully after the initial difficulties."
(Global Times) German book fair invites Chinese dissidents. By Duan Congcong. September 14, 2009.
All Chinese delegates withdrew from a symposium on Saturday in the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair after an unnoticed change in agenda, which was touted by some German media as a big splash. German organizers of the symposium invited two Chinese writers ˇV Dai Qing and Bei Ling, deemed dissidents in China ˇV to the symposium without informing their Chinese counterparts.
The Chinese delegates were angered by this sudden change and withdrew from the event. "Our German friends failed to inform us about the change, which breached our agreement on co-organizing the event," Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, told reporters. "They didn't even greet us in the opening address of the symposium."
After the withdrawal, chairman of the book fair Juergen Boos negotiated with the Chinese delegates, who later returned to the symposium after Boos agreed to make a public apology.
Some German media reports strongly bashed the Chinese delegates' withdrawal. A report yesterday by Deutsche Presse Agentur said, "As expected, something big happened." Die Welt used "Chinese delegates cause conflict" as its headline, and a German TV channel called the Chinese delegates' behavior a provocation to the hosts.
"Some German media reports said the Chinese delegates tried to block those two writers, which is purely nonsense," Mei said after returning to the symposium. "We are here to eliminate misunderstandings and prejudice by discussing and exchanging opinions. However, miscommunication did only the opposite," he added.
(Global Times) Ambassador criticizes German book fair hosts. September 16, 2009.
A senior Chinese official yesterday criticized the German organizers of the world's biggest book fair after they allowed Chinese dissidents to take part in a debate, prompting a walkout.
China's ambassador to Berlin, Wu Hongbo, said the conduct of the Frankfurt fair's hosts as "unacceptable" and "not an expression of respect for their Chinese partners" in an interview in the Berliner Zeitung daily.
"The world outside China has many prejudices, and there are misunderstandings," Wu said. "To overcome these misunderstandings, all sides must ... hold to the principles of mutual respect, equal treatment and not interfering in internal affairs."
The director of the fair, to be held October 14-18, apologized for what he called a scheduling error, but he told Spiegel news magazine, "The fair is not taking place in Beijing." "If we allow ourselves to be influenced by one country's politicians, we might as well shut up shop," Juergen Boos added.
Guan Yuqian, chairman of the Association of Chinese Scholars in Europe, told the Global Times that despite the minor fuss, the debate was successful in terms of understanding the differences between China and Germany. "As an international debate, its process was not constrained by the Chinese mind-set," Guan said. "The Chinese delegates should have learned about this and will be better prepared next time."
According to Guan, the German organizers didn't mean to anger their Chinese counterparts. "They might be pressured by the German media, which had been condemning the Chinese delegates since the dispute broke out," he added.
(The Wall Street Journal) Throwing the Book at China By Didi Kirsten Tatlow. September 17, 2009.
Every October, the German city of Frankfurt hosts the world's biggest book fair. The event is no stranger to local controversy. Yet the storm brewing between the fair's organizers and China is of global importance, because it will expose the limits of Beijing's tolerance for free speech.
The list of attendees reads like a rollcall of China's worst "enemies." Uighur independence advocate Rebiya Kadeer confirmed to me Wednesday that she will attend. The fair will also host the Dalai Lama's top envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen, plus many other democrats, dissidents and exiles keen to tell the world what they think of the Chinese Communist Party.
This puts ChinaˇXthis year's Guest of HonorˇXin a highly awkward position. If last year's Olympics were China's coming of age in the sporting world, the Frankfurt Book Fair is the cultural equivalent. China's programs include a staggering 612 events that began in March at the Leipzig Book Fair, followed by Germany-wide author tours. Two thousand publishers, artists, journalists and writers from China will attend the main October event. There will be a grand opening concert at Frankfurt's elegant opera house starring the China Philharmonic and pianist Lang Lang, receptions, art shows, readings, and, hopefully, plenty of book deals and schmoozing.
When faced with criticism at past cultural eventsˇXsuch as Melbourne's Film Festival in JulyˇXChina usually responds by cancelling appearances. But a boycott of the Frankfurt fair would mean junking the 100 million yuan ($15 million) the General Administration of Press and Publication has spent on the event. More importantly, it would re-ignite an embarrassing public debate about China's inability to deal with criticism of its free speech controls and human-rights recordˇXa debate which has fallen by the wayside as many countries, including the United States, look to China as an economic savior amid the financial crisis.
This debate angered the authorities before the Olympics and remains an obstacle to China taking what it sees as its rightful place at the top table of nations. Yet unlike sport, the Fair's focus on writing, creativity and freedom of expression goes to the heart of China's system of domestic controlˇXstrict limits on speech, press and book publishing. China's growing economy has resulted in significant advances in freedom of speech and human rights and improving standards of living over the past 30 years, but this argument is likely to fall on deaf ears if Beijing tries to pressure the Frankfurt organizers to muzzle dissidents attending the jamboree.
To their credit, the Chinese knew the Fair wouldn't be easy from the start, and still wanted to go. Only after "extremely long" negotiations did GAPP sign the contract, according to Jing Bartz, director of the German Book Information Center, the Fair's Beijing representative office. "The Chinese wanted to know, repeatedly, where the limits lay, what they were allowed to determine and what not."
The German organizers accommodated Beiijng, to a point. They disinvited environmental activist Dai Qing and United States-based poet Bei Ling from a symposium last weekend titled, fittingly, "China and the WorldˇXPerceptions and Realities." But a storm of negative publicity forced an about-face. Ms. Dai and Mr. Bei went to FrankfurtˇXand spoke at the event. Mei Zhaorong, China's former ambassador to Germany, thundered: "We did not come to be instructed about democracy."
Yet for Ms. Dai the scandal overshadowed a triumph: The Chinese delegation walked out, but they came back. "They listened to my talk, they took my questions. . . . The symposium was very successful, and the Book Fair will be even more successful if different voices are heard," she told me by telephone on Wednesday.
Perhaps realizing the credibility of the Fair is at stake, organizers have sharpened their tone. "The Book Fair is a marketplace for freedom," director Juergen Boos said Tuesday, promising 250 other events that would highlight "the independent, the other China." These include support for writer Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned on charges of subversion since December; an invitation to China's only Nobel Literature Prize winner, Gao Xingjian, abjured by Beijing and off the official guest list; and invitations to exiled poet Yang Lian, domestic critic Ai Weiwei, and independent Tibetan, Uighur, Hong Kong and Taiwan voices.
Ms. Bartz argues the Fair strove all along to counteract China's efforts to invite only politically acceptable authors, after the organizers discovered important figures like Yan Lianke, whose satirical novella "Serve the People" was banned in 2005, and outspoken, wildly popular blogger Han Han, hadn't been asked to attend.
Either way, the new tone from Frankfurt stands out against a global backdrop of increasingly uncritical voices. Slammed by the economic downturn, governments and companies are looking to China as the savior of growth. In Frankfurt, the Chinese authorities may discover the economic card isn't enough.
(New Strait Times) The delicate issue of China's internal affairs. Frank Ching. September 17, 2009.
EVER since the 1950s, China has subscribed to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, which was first written into a treaty that it signed with India in 1954. Since then, China has continued to loudly uphold this principle and to criticise those whom, in Beijingˇ¦s view, interfere in its internal affairs, including comments on its human rights record.
During this period, however, China has by no means lived up to its own standards. In the Maoist era, for example, Beijing supported world revolution and called constantly called for the downfall of ˇ§American imperialismˇ¨ and its ˇ§running dogsˇ¨.
In the 1960s and 1970s, China supported insurgent movements in Southeast Asia. Even as the Chinese government was pledging eternal friendship to governments with which it had forged diplomatic relations, the Chinese Communist Party was covertly supporting underground movements intent upon overthrowing those same governments.
It was not until the 1980s that such blatant interference in other countriesˇ¦ internal affairs finally ceased.
With the recent rise of Chinese economic power, Beijing appears to have widened its definition of what constitutes its internal affairs. Indeed, its definition of Chinese internal affairs increasingly seems to overlap with other countriesˇ¦ definitions of their internal affairs.
For example, Beijing calls on leaders of other countries not to meet with the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of being a splittist, intent on separating Tibet from China. Last year, it cancelled a summit meeting with the European Union because President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who then held the rotating presidency of the EU, insisted on meeting with the Nobel laureate. Sarkozy insisted on his right to meet whomever he wanted, saying: ˇ§Itˇ¦s not for China to fix my agenda, or to dictate my meetings.ˇ¨
The Chinese position seems to be that any government that accords any recognition to the exiled Tibetan leader is interfering in Chinaˇ¦s internal affairs. This Chinese position extends beyond visits with government leaders. Beijing wants foreign governments not to issue visas to the Dalai Lama, even though the right to issue visas is intrinsic to a countryˇ¦s sovereignty.
Governments ordinarily issue or withhold visas on the basis of their own interests, not those of others. But incurring Chinaˇ¦s displeasure carries with it certain costs. Last month, for example, China rejected a requested port call in Hong Kong by Japanˇ¦s navy. The official China Daily cited visits to Japan by the Dalai Lama and the Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer as reasons for turning down the request.
The number of individuals whom the Chinese government wishes other countries to boycott has also increased. Traditionally, Beijing has focused on Taiwan, warning all countries with which it has diplomatic relations not to receive senior officials from Taiwan.
Visas for Chinaˇ¦s critics have also come under Beijingˇ¦s scrutiny. A few days ago, China tried to prevent the environmental activist Dai Qing and the writer Bei Ling from visiting Germany to take part in a symposium leading up to the Frankfurt Book Fair. When the two showed up for the forum on Saturday, the entire Chinese delegation walked out in protest. China is this yearˇ¦s guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
President George W. Bush met repeatedly with the Dalai Lama and, in 2007, was present when the Tibetan received the Congressional Gold Medal.
In recent months, Australia has borne the brunt of Chinese ire, largely because it allowed Rebiya Kadeer to visit while the Melbourne film festival screened a documentary about the exiled Uighur leader. The screening went ahead even though a Chinese diplomat telephoned the festivalˇ¦s director demanding that the film be dropped. Some Australians saw this as interference in their countryˇ¦s domestic affairs.
Canada was told recently that it was back in Chinaˇ¦s good graces. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in June that the key to success was ˇ§not to interfere in other countriesˇ¦ internal affairsˇ¨, which was taken to mean an end to criticism of Chinaˇ¦s human rights practices.
The Dalai Lama is visiting the US next month and President Barack Obama sent representatives to Dharamsala to discuss this issue. It was decided that he will not meet the Tibetan leader this time, apparently because Washington wants to ensure the success of his visit to China in November.
In the end, just as China decides what constitutes its internal affairs, other countries will have to decide where Chinaˇ¦s domestic affairs end and their own internal affairs begin.
(Bookseller.com) Frankfurt sends out strong anti-censorship message By Catherine Neilan. September 18, 2009.
The director of the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) has stressed that "censorship will not take place" at this year's event, claiming that the idea that the organisers would be subject to or engage in censorship was "false".
FBF came under widespread criticism last week for its decision to revoke invitations sent to Chinese "dissident" authors Bei Ling and Dai Qing to appear at a symposium about the fair's guest of honour China. The organisers later changed their minds and allowed the authors to appear, causing the official Chinese delegation to walk out and demand an apology. But Juergen Boos has said the decision to prevent the authors from appearing "was wrong". He added: "The Frankfurt Book Fair does not compromise to the detriment of freedom of expression. Facilitating dialogue is not easy. We have always been aware of this and the symposium confirmed this. Dialogue is, however, the right way and the only way."
Boos highlighted a number of controversial attendees expected at this year's event, such as Chinese Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian, whose work was banned in China, and poet Yan Lian, as an example of the FBF's openness. The president of the World Uyghur Congress is also expected to attend the Fair, as is artist Ai Weiwei, journalist Xue Xinran, Hong Kong author Leung Ping-kwan and Taiwanese Chang Ta-Chun.
There will also be a discussion about freedom of expression and the press, looking at China as an example, and Tibet will be discussed "at numerous events".
He added: "We want to create a platform for the most diverse and extreme points of view and, in doing so, facilitate dialogue. This generates pressure from all sides, from which we cannot retreat. This pressure can and should serve as the engine of a productive public discussion. Our goal is to have a dialogue both with official China, as well as with authors, academics, intellectuals from China and abroad. We will experience China‚s literature and culture impartially."
After last week's walk out, Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, told German newspapers that the German hosts had changed the program of the symposium without informing the delegation from Beijing. "We did not come here for a lesson in democracy," Mei said. "Those times are over."
But Boos was resolute. "Democracy and freedom of expression always involve friction and the scandal over the weekend was only the beginning of a democratic dispute that lies ahead for Guest of Honour China," he said. "The Frankfurt Book Fair is not offering instruction in democracy, to be sure, but it is democracy in action. These are the rules of the game of the Frankfurt Book Fair."
(The Wall Street Journal) German Book Fair's Dissident Guests Roil China. By Vanessa Fuhrmans. September 21, 2009.
A dispute between China and organizers of the famed Frankfurt Book Fair threatens to overshadow the world's premier publishing event and become a diplomatic headache for German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of elections later this month.
The rift broke open last weekend at a symposium to herald next month's Frankfurt Book Fair, whose guest country of honor this year is China. Just as the 2008 Olympics ushered China's economic and sporting accomplishments onto the world stage, the fair is intended to do the same for its literary achievements. Some 2,000 Chinese publishers, artists and writers are expected to attend, and the first of hundreds of exhibits, readings and author tours already began this spring.
The fair's official Chinese organizing committee, though, took issue with the invitations of two dissidents to the symposium, titled "China and the world -- perception and reality."
After the Chinese delegation threatened to boycott the event, book fair organizers withdrew invitations to journalist and environmental activist Dai Qing and poet Bei Ling -- only to have them come as the guests of the German PEN club of independent writers.
Part of the delegation walked out of the conference, and returned only when the fair's director, Juergen Boos, apologized for failing to inform them ahead of time. "We did not come to be instructed about democracy," Mei Zhaorong, China's former ambassador to Germany, declared at the event.
The incident has rekindled public debate in Germany over whether China should have been chosen as the fair's guest of honor in the first place.
The German government could face a tricky balancing act if it wades in to the dispute. China is a critical trading partner and helped jump-start Germany's export-heavy economy's climb out of its recession in recent months.
But Ms. Merkel has made defending human rights a cornerstone of her foreign policy. Two years ago, she defied Chinese pressure and criticism by becoming the first German chancellor to receive the Dalai Lama.
"Two principles also apply to the Frankfurt Book Fair: Guests are treated like guests, and art without freedom is inconceivable," a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
The fair, which takes place Oct. 14-18, puts China in an awkward position, too. The fair's literary focus makes it difficult to avoid discussion of China's record on free speech or to block certain attendees. Adding fuel to the debate was the hospitalization of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei for a cerebral hemorrhage in Munich on Monday. Mr. Ai, who also was invited to the fair, said he believes his injuries were the result of a beating by Chinese police in mid-August.
The flap has rankled Chinese diplomats. Earlier this week, China's ambassador to Germany, Wu Hongbo, lambasted the fair's organizers for the surprise readdition of the two dissidents to the symposium. "It was not an expression of respect toward [the fair's] Chinese partner," Mr. Wu said in a German newspaper interview whose full text was posted on the embassy's Web site. "It was unacceptable," he said.
Fair organizers have toughened their tone and insisted they won't yield to censorship pressure. The fair, a marketing mecca for more than 7,000 publishers world-wide, will make plenty of room for "the independent, the other China," said Mr. Boos in a statement Tuesday. The fair is organized by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.
To that end, organizers have set the stage for further tensions and invited Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, whose works have been banned in China, the Dalai Lama's chief envoy and numerous other dissidents and exiles likely to rankle the Chinese government.
Fair organizers anticipate the possibility of more controversy as the event approaches. "We want to create a platform for the most diverse and extreme points of view and, in doing so, facilitate dialogue," Mr. Boos said. "This generates pressure from all sides, from which we cannot retreat."
Related link: The Frankfurt Book Mess Nicolai Volland, The China Beat, September 28, 2009.
(AFP) Frankfurt Book Fair welcomes China, dissident voices October 13, 2009.
The Frankfurt Book Fair's 61st edition opens Tuesday with the welcome mat laid out for guest of honour China, but it was clear the hosts saw freedom of expression more as an opportunity than a threat. Gottfried Honnefelder, president of the German publishers and booksellers association, told the opening press conference he hoped "our colleagues, the authors and publishers in China, will be given the freedoms they need to live their lives and do their work." Fair director Juergen Boos said the trade show had to "make sure we can present many voices," and said he looked forward to a "controversial and not always convenient book fair."
Dissident Chinese poet Bei Ling told another press briefing he and others wanted visitors to the fair to hear not only the "officials writers voice. "We have another voice, this underground literature voice, underground poetry," Bei said at an event sponsored by The International Society for Human Rights.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said she would not avoid thorny topics in her meetings with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, tipped as a possible successor to President Hu Jintao. "In my talks I will make it clear to Chinese representatives that freedom of opinion is not a threat, but an opportunity," Merkel, who angered the Chinese government by meeting the Dalai Lama in 2007, said in her weekend podcast.
Merkel and Xi are to officially open the world's biggest book fair at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT).
The fair "is an unique opportunity for China to present the richness of its culture and its literature," Merkel said in the podcast. "I hope therefore that China makes use of the opportunities that this presents." In mid-September, a symposium organised ahead of the trade show sparked controversy when poet Bei Ling and journalist and environmental activist Dai Qing were invited and then "de-programmed" owing to protests from Beijing. Following a German uproar, the pair were finally asked again to attend, causing part of the official Chinese delegation to storm out.
China's ambassador to Germany, Wu Hongbo, called the action by the fair's hosts "unacceptable", and said it was "not an expression of respect for their Chinese partners". But Herbert Wiesner, head of the German chapter of the writer's defence organisation PEN, said that "Chinese organisers have mistaken themselves for state censors. It's frightening." Wiesner called this year's fair "a balancing act". "We always knew there would be protests," fair director Boos told journalists in Berlin last week. "There is no doubt; there is censorship in China, we are far from a democracy. But when the contract was signed with Beijing three years ago, we stipulated there would be complete freedom of expression," he said. Less than half of the 500-odd events with a Chinese theme will be organised by Beijing, he explained.
Dozens of non-governmental organisations, many of which are human rights groups, will also be present, and hope they will not be ignored when Merkel inaugurates the show.
The book fair is used to controversy and last year's guest, Turkey was also taken to task for curbing freedom of expression. Some 6,900 exhibitors from around 100 countries are to gather in Frankfurt until Sunday, around 400 fewer than last year, and each publisher has trimmed the size of its participation. Last year, it welcomed 300,000 visitors.
(DPA) Merkel and Xi softly differ at Book Fair opening October 13, 2009.
A smouldering argument about free speech peppered opening speeches Tuesday at the Frankfurt Book Fair, with Chancellor Angela Merkel castigating communist dictatorships. Representing China, which is this year's guest of honour at the annual book publishing fair, Vice President Xi Jinping rebuffed criticism by German commentators of Beijing's censorship of books and the internet and he demanded respect for China's own ways. "Various ideologies must not hamper mutual development," he said, as Chinese in the audience clapped, while the German guests in a theatre at the Frankfurt fairgrounds listened impassively. "We are open to accepting elements from outside, but on our own cultural foundations," Xi said.
A few moments later, Merkel won applause from the German side of the room with a plea for competition of ideas. Describing her own childhood under the now vanished East German communist dictatorship, she said people had yearned for books smuggled in from the West. "Books emphasize all those differences that are so threatening to dictatorships," she said. But Merkel, who had met with Xi for 90 minutes the previous day at her Berlin office, kept the disagreement gentle, saying she welcomed China as a guest and Germans were immensely curious about China and its economic achievements.
The five-day fair opens for business on Wednesday.
Human rights groups have accused the fair organizers of pandering to China at a pre-fair symposium on Chinese literature in Frankfurt last month. Beijing demanded two dissidents not be invited to the pre-fair event. When the two Chinese writers showed up anyway, Beijing officials briefly walked out. On Tuesday, the chief organizer, Juergen Boos, toughened his stance towards China, saying, "We strongly condemn the human rights breaches and the restrictions on freedom of opinion and the press in the People's Republic of China."
Guest-of-honour status allows China to win special attention from the German arts media and to stage a cultural exhibition at the fairgrounds. That show emphasizes the long history of calligraphy and printing in China, with replicas of its early books. Boos insisted China had been an excellent choice as this year's focus nation, saying, "You can marvel at China, fear it or criticize it, but you can't ignore it." He said dialogue with China was likely to bring change, but a book fair was "not the United Nations." "The subject here is literature. We can describe conflicts, but we can't solve them here," he said.
(Der Spiegel) Controversy as Frankfurt Book Fair Fetes Beijing By Wolfgang Höbel and Andreas Lorenz October 13, 2009.
China, which bans hundreds of books every year, was a controversial choice as the guest of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. But some of the Chinese authors appearing at the fair, which begins Wednesday, have managed to slip political works past the censors.
A striking woman in an elegant black blouse sits in a bulky chair in the lobby of the Beijing Kempinski Hotel. Her name is Tie Ning and she is the chairwoman of the Chinese Writers' Association, which means that she represents a total of 8,920 state-supported authors.
"Censorship?" she says. "What censorship? Artists enjoy great liberties in China." She adds: "We are enthusiastically looking forward to the open exchange of opinions that will take place in Frankfurt."
This could be a merry book party indeed. With an official delegation of exactly 100 authors, along with over 1,000 functionaries and publishing managers, the Chinese are appearing at the world's largest book fair as this year's guest of honor. Organizers in Frankfurt are promising a "critical dialogue" at the event.
In Beijing, says the stern-looking Tie, who has apparently never heard that approximately 600 books are banned in China each year, "one must comply with the laws and regulations. It is not allowed, for example, to offend national minorities. That is all." Then Tie straightens her back, adjusts the large silver brooch on her blouse, and shows a rigid smile.
Tie Ning is 52 years old. In the past, she wrote novels which were perfectly respected. One of these is entitled "Rose Door" and tells of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, of a time in which, as she herself says, "every sense of humanity was destroyed."
On the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, the People's Republic of China currently ranks 167 out of a total of 173 countries. At least 40 journalists and authors are currently being held in prison. Torture and abuse are "widespread," says Amnesty International. Environmental activists are shadowed by state security agents. Anyone who unfurls a protest banner proclaiming the rights of Tibetans and Uighurs can face years behind bars. In this economic powerhouse, there are many days when not even the popular social networking Internet platform Facebook can be accessed on the millions of computers across the country because the Web site has been blocked once again. All of this is well known and depressing enough.
And yet within China one often encounters an amazing sense of defiance. Many Chinese find the state repression to be nowhere as bad as is commonly assumed in the West.
Money Beats Politics
In a posh agency on Beijing's Third Ring Road, it's possible to meet a slender, young man who is widely acclaimed in China as a hip, successful poet -- a popstar of young Chinese literature. And he in no way gives the impression that he feels weighed down by any aspect of life in modern China.
Guo Jingming is 26 years old, but as thin as a 10-year-old. His hair is combed forward and teased up. He is wearing rouge on his cheeks, a striped sweater and white tennis shoes. Guo has been writing since he was 18 and he says he focuses exclusively on the things that really move him -- his life and his love. He writes lines like: "You showed me a tear drop, and I saw the ocean in your heart." His current book is called "Tiny Times."
Guo Jingming owns apartments in Beijing and Shanghai. In the capital he drives a Cadillac and in Shanghai a Mercedes S-Class, or rather, his chauffeur does the driving. He earns more than most authors in China. "Money is great," he says. The British author J. K. Rowling, who created the hugely popular Harry Potter series, is Guo's role model.
Guo appears on TV game shows, has a blog and publishes a magazine. He's thinking about going into the film business, and he employs people to answer the 500 e-mails that he receives every day. There are people who say that he allows himself to be heavily inspired by the ideas of others, for example, by Hollywood films such as "The Devil Wears Prada."
Guo sees China as a land of unlimited opportunities, a land that has given him wealth, which he is now able to enjoy.
What about politics?
"Politics," he says "doesn't interest me."
Every year 150,000 books are published in China. The most impressive bookshop in the center of the city has a concrete facade decorated with golden letters and calls itself the Beijing Books Building. It belongs to the same state-owned company that operates the official state news agency, Xinhua, which means "new China." Incredibly large crowds of customers throng the four-story building, pushing their way through stuffy aisles of bookshelves. The bestsellers are books with tips on how to lead a healthier life and get-rich schemes, including the "Sales Bible" and the collected wisdoms of the great guru of capitalism, Warren Buffett.
"I often walk around Beijing with an incredible feeling of rage," says novelist and filmmaker Guo Xiaolu. She lives half the year in London, and the other half in Beijing. When Western visitors rave about China's enthusiasm for new beginnings, and its energy, she gets angry. "They fail to notice that this manic enthusiasm for new high-rises and new cars has an incredibly melancholic, even depressed core."
She was born in 1973 in a fishing village in southern China. "No one there, not even my parents, ever picked up a book," she says. She started writing as a 10-year-old schoolgirl and published her first book of poetry at the age of 14. At the age of 18 she managed to get accepted into the Beijing Film Academy. Her film "She, a Chinese" won the coveted Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival. It is the story of a Chinese girl who moves to the big city, where she is surrounded by hookers and killers, and finally ends up in the UK.
In 2002, Guo Xiaolu went to Europe on a scholarship. She now works with British and German publishers and producers, but doesn't want to give up her apartment in Beijing. Her latest book, entitled "UFO in Her Eyes," is a satire on China's modernization that is set in the year 2012.
In her novel, the mayor of a Chinese village proclaims that "everything old must make way for the new," and has banners displayed with slogans like "Get rid of the weak, get rid of the lazy!" The book also includes a few dim-witted state security agents and a mother who bemoans the 5,000 miners, most of them young people, who die every year in China's mines. It is totally out of the question that "UFO in Her Eyes" will ever appear in China, says Guo Xiaolu. She says she grew up as a communist, but today she often suffers from "asphyxiation" in Beijing.
Army of Censors
A huge army of censors -- whose names and exact number remain unknown -- watches over China's media. Novelists are handled by a special government agency, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). The GAPP is the official partner of the Frankfurt Book Fair. It organizes the guest country program and has launched a number of initiatives, including donating half a million euros (roughly $739,000) in subsidies for the translation of Chinese novels into German.
The censors at the GAPP intervene when important leaders of the Communist Party are attacked, when ethnic minorities in the country are portrayed in a less than flattering manner, or if allusions are made to the student revolts of 1989. But the agency also acts to suppress pornography, or what passes as such in prudish China. In general, anything that could endanger the "stability and unity of China" is considered undesirable.
As in other communist states, books were the most incisive weapons of intellectual discourse in China until well into the 1990s. But for the past few years, the Internet has served as the main platform for intelligent and rebellious debate.
It is always hard to get an overview of what is happening in Chinese media, with 150,000 books published each year and millions of Chinese Web sites. But what is particularly confusing is that many ostensibly banned topics can now be discussed in Beijing without the authorities so much as batting an eye.
'We Don't Ask for Permission'
One example of this newfound tolerance can be found behind the gray walls of the Sanwei Bookshop, which lies on the main east-west artery in the heart of the city, not far from Tiananmen Square. The building is a traditional town house, like the thousands and thousands that once dotted the city of Beijing. Now it stands forlorn amid office high-rises and huge construction sites, like a dwarf among giants.
Since 1988, Li Shiqiang has run the city's first independent bookshop here, together with his wife, Liu Yuansheng. The walls are covered with framed black-and-white photos of old Beijing and, in a space the size of two living rooms, books of a primarily political nature are displayed on high wooden tables. There are books about Barack Obama, global climate protection, the economic downturn and Bob Dylan. Visitors from Germany may also be surprised to find an anthology of essays by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas translated into Chinese as well as former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's book "Men and Power: A Political Retrospective."
In the tea salon that belongs to the bookshop, there are five dozen chairs and a few tables. Occasionally there are jazz concerts, and every Saturday afternoon people are invited to attend presentations and discussions. Participants here talk about the moral limits of greed and excessive profits, about the political explosiveness of Islam and the constraints of Chinese censorship. "It almost never happens that an event is banned by government authorities," says Li Shiqiang. "We simply don't ask for permission, and usually nobody cares about us."
Li Shiqiang was born in 1945, after the Japanese occupiers had been defeated, when China was a battlefield torn apart by civil war. He was four years old when hundreds of thousands celebrated the birth of the People's Republic of China on Tiananmen Square. Li became an engineer. In 1958, his wife lost her job as a teacher because she was supposedly a "rightist." In 1966, Chairman Mao proclaimed the Cultural Revolution, and all well-educated individuals were suddenly regarded as scum.
For seven years, from 1968 to 1975, Li languished in prison. "We have experienced many catastrophes," he says while his wife serves tea. "And even though it may sound ridiculous, because we are only two ordinary individuals, we intend to use the work in our shop to do everything possible to prevent further catastrophes."
In 1989, when the military used tanks to crush the student rebellion on Tiananmen Square, Li's daughter was among the protesters and was imprisoned for two years. She now lives in South Korea. After the Tiananmen massacre, the afternoon presentations in the Sanwei Bookshop were banned. It wasn't until 2002 that they could begin again with discussions, "and we've noticed that there have recently been new visitors from the affluent middle class."
Sometimes he gets angry about what China's novelists write these days, says Li. "It is pure greed, not censorship, which prevents them from writing about the important political issues facing our country. Our entire society wants to earn money, and I've realized, to my disappointment, that this is also true of our authors."
China has an enormous, colorful range of media, and has rapidly risen to become an economic superpower ever since the chairman of the Communist Party, Deng Xiaoping, spurred the masses by saying "To get rich is glorious!"
Yu Hua, a short, stocky man with a wild shock of hair and a mischievous twinkle in his eye, has sold 1.5 million copies of his latest novel "Brothers" -- not including the many pirated copies. "I was just lucky," he says loudly, waving his arms around. "A few months earlier, or a few months later, and my book would have never been allowed to appear in China!"
He "slipped by the censors," Yu assumes, because his book was published shortly after the death of a famous politician's widow, a prominent victim of the Cultural Revolution, and the state watchdogs were waiting for new directives about whether it was permissible to speak more openly of the murderous insanity of this period in Chinese history.
"Brothers," which takes an irreverent look at this slaughter ordered by Mao and the turbo capitalism of present-day China, also promises to be a hit in Germany, where it has been translated, along with many other Chinese novels, to mark China being guest of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. It is an epic, bawdy, picaresque novel. The book tells the story of the shrewd businessman Baldy Li and his unfortunate brother Song Gang, who is a sensitive loser.
Grotesque Real Life
Baldy Li is uneducated, but self-assured, a typical member of the nouveau riche in today's China. He's one of those guys who yell into their mobile phones in the first-class lounges of airports, who grab at girls in karaoke bars, speed through the city in expensive convertibles and like to flash big rolls of bills. Li amassed a fortune with garbage, second-hand imported suits from Japan and shady real estate deals. He used his profits to buy himself a golden toilet.
Li's brother Song Gang is one of those people in today's China who can't cope with the rapidly changing times. He is one of the many who sit in tea salons or dusty offices and desperately brood over the question of how to catch up with those in the fast lane of society. At least Song manages to hook the most beautiful girl in the city -- but she later becomes the madam of a whorehouse. His career is no better. Song manages to eke out a living as a purveyor of "breast enhancing cream," and he even gets breast implants to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product to skeptical customers.
"Brothers" may be grotesque, but Yu Hua emphasizes that his novel is based on real life. Even the golden toilets really exist. "Shortly after my book came out, two readers called me and said: 'Unbelievable, you've written about my toilet!'"
The Limits of Dissent
Yu was born in 1960 and grew up in a small city in central China. He worked for years as a village dentist. For over two decades now he's been living as a novelist in Beijing. In 1994, when director Zhang Yimou filmed his novel "To Live," with the famous actress Gong Li in the leading role, the film was banned in China. It doesn't look good for the film version of "Brothers," either. Yu says that the authorities have already indicated their disapproval, telling him that the book does not cast a positive light on Deng Xiaoping's reforms and opening-up policy.
Yu will travel with the official delegation to the Frankfurt Book Fair, but he still says things that one wouldn't expect from a successful Chinese novelist. "The most urgent problem in China is injustice," he says. "Our judges and police are corrupt. Over the past year, 10 million official complaints were made across the country. Ten million people feel like they have been treated unjustly. That is our greatest human rights problem."
Perhaps the country cannot be fully controlled because it is simply too large. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that Yu is rich and famous today and is representing Chinese literature in Frankfurt while others are locked up in prisons or writing books that will never be published in China. It's very difficult to understand where the limit lies between being outspoken and being a dissident.
Renowned Chinese novelist Yan Lianke is also not a dissident, but he has nevertheless written a fairly open and courageous book. It is entitled "Dream of Ding Village," and it deals with a real scandal. During the 1990s, tens of thousands of people were infected with HIV from dirty needles and tainted blood. The dealers who were responsible for this man-made disaster were protected by corrupt party functionaries. Needless to say, the book is banned in China.
Yan was a career soldier until the mid-1990s and, ironically, worked as a propaganda writer for the military. But after he produced objectionable texts and gave interviews, he was discharged from the People's Liberation Army. Recently he has become a professor of literature at the People's University in Beijing, where he teaches classical literature of the 20th century.
"Dream of Ding Village" is not the first book by Yan to be banned. In an earlier work, the 2005 novel "To Serve the People," the wife of a high-ranking military officer has such wild sex with one of the soldiers under her husband's command that busts of Mao get broken, causing them to have incredible orgasms. The censors were not amused.
If a book is banned, there are generally no discussions and no objections can be made. It can also be an expensive affair. In contrast to the film business, where screenplays have to be presented for approval, book censorship only takes place after publication. Yan's "Dream of Ding Village," for example, was in bookstores for three days. Then the publishers had to collect all the printed copies. Due to the loss, they quarreled with the author over his fee. It is this financial risk, often exacerbated by penalties from the authorities, that makes Chinese censorship so effective. "Self-censorship is much worse than all the interventions of the watchdogs," says Yan. "I've also made compromises for years. And what good has it done? None at all! China's novelists have censorship in their blood."
'I Have to Think of My Mother'
Then Yan says with a sarcastic smile that the situation of Chinese authors has actually vastly improved. "Thirty years ago, disagreeable novelists were tortured and killed. When one of my novels was banned for the first time 15 years ago, I regularly had to report to state offices for half a year and write self-criticism. Today, no one interferes with my private life."
Yan was prevented from traveling to Germany as part of the official delegation. Since his books are published by Germany's Ullstein publishing house, he could come to Frankfurt anyway, but he would rather not. "It's better not to travel there and to remain quiet," he says. In Frankfurt they are organizing "a temple fair" like at a Chinese spring festival, he says, and he would only contradict the politicians and functionaries who traveled there, and that would be dangerous.
"I have to live in China," he says. "I am not strong, sometimes I'm even a coward. I have to think of my mother, my wife and my daughter. I don't want to get them into trouble."
(Xinhua) Frankfurt Book Fair helps Chinese culture journey west: experts October 14, 2009.
The Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, which opened on Tuesday, would help acquaint more people worldwide with China and its culture, some experts said.
As the Guest of Honor at the fair for the first time, China has set a new record by sending an impressive delegation of more than 100 writers, 300 actors and actress as well as some 700 publishers and traders. The theme of China's presentation is "Tradition and Innovation," featuring 612 events. Among the events is an opening performance by the world-renowned pianist Lang Lang.
"China being the Guest of Honor has provided a golden opportunity for the German public to get to know China and its culture," said Dr. Kyro Dreher with the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. "The book fair will present a diversified China with hundred faces. It opens (the) door to the West that Chinese culture is beyond calligraphy and Chinese ink," Liang Yong, director of the Confucius Institute in Trier, Germany, believed. "Face-to-face communication at the book fair will broaden contacts of people and our understanding. Only when we throw away our prejudices, can we get to know each other better," said StefanKramer, a Sinologue at the University of Leipzig.
Liu Binjie, director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, called books the eternal memory of human beings and carriers of different cultures. Liu also said books were a short-cut for progress as well as bridges between different countries and different civilizations. He noted that by participating in the events organized by China during the book fair, visitors from all over the world would have the unique opportunity to get to know and understand China.
The Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, which concludes on Oct. 18, is the world's largest and most important. The fair is a venue for over 7,300 publishers and traders from more than 100 countries and regions, and is estimated to attract some 300,000 visitors this year.
(NRC Handelsblad) At Frankfurt book fair, only official China can show its face. By Oscar Garschagen October 14, 2009.
Dai Qing laughed as she displayed several books that are banned in China on her dinner table next to her plane ticket to Frankfurt. "The secret diaries of prime minister Zhao Ziyang I smuggled in myself after a trip to Hong Kong," said the outspoken 68-year-old writer and environmental activist.
"It is a disgrace that we still can't read what we want here," she added in an angry tone. "It seems as if these ridiculous rules are getting stricter by the day. And we writers are helping them by censoring ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously."
Censorship in China is the theme Dai Qing chose for her lecture in the margin of the Frankfurter Buchmesse, which opens on Wednesday. She was supposed to have been an official guest of the book fair, which this year has chosen literary China as its main theme. Two thousand Chinese publishers, writers and poets have been invited to represent the new China, much like athletes at the Olympics.
But Dai Qing, who is well-known outside China for her campaigns against political repression and costly projects like the Three Gorges Dam, is not welcome at the official event.
After protests from China, the Buchmesse withdrew its invitation to Dai Qing and poet Bei Ling. According to the German chapter of the writers association Pen, Buchmesse director Jurgen Boos caved to pressure by the Chinese ambassador to Germany. Pen, which has advocated on behalf of Dai Qing for years, then invited her to come to Frankfurt anyway.
The Chinese diplomat was probably anxious to keep Dai away from Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping. The future leader of the People's Republic is currently touring Europe, and he is a guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the Buchmesse. "I know him slightly. We met once at the wedding of a distant cousin," Dai Qing grinned.
Dai Qing is a genuine 'red princess', even though she hates the moniker. Her father, an early revolutionary, died in 1945 during the war against the Japanese. Dai Qing was subsequently adopted by one of chairman Mao's ten marshals. As the adoptive daughter of one of China's most powerful men, she worked as an engineer in the Red Army, was a faithful member of the party and, because of her knowledge of English, spied on visiting foreign writers. One of them was the American author Studs Terkel, who later became a friend.
During the eighties, as Dai Qing started working as a journalist, she drifted away from the party. She broke off all ties after her book about the Three Gorges Dam was banned, and she spent 10 months in prison after the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989. All her books, including her prison memoirs, are now officially banned ˇV but are easily available unofficially.
The same goes for the books on her dinner table. Chinese who buy banned books in Hong Kong, where censorship remained more lax even after reunification, and bring them back to the mainland risk little more than a fine if they're caught. As a result, books are increasingly on the shopping lists of the 17 million mainland Chinese who go on shopping trips to Hong Kong every year.
Two visions of China
Dai Qing: "You can read anything you want in China, but most people don't even know of the existence of such books. There is the internet, of course, but that hasn't made much of a difference yet. Writers who want to be published in China know exactly what is historically and politically sensitive, so they work around the pitfalls. The publishers are all state companies."
"I am invited to Frankfurt and I am not invited to Frankfurt," she said as she waved her plane tickets and visa around. "It is so typical of the schizophrenic situation in China and of the Buchmesse itself. It is a clash between two visions of China, between censorship and freedom of expression, repression and openness, between the image that China likes to project to the rest of the world and the reality."
(The Wall Street Journal) Let a Hundred Publishers Bloom By Didi Kirsten Tatlow. October 15, 2009.
On a freezing Beijing morning in early January 1937, with the Japanese Imperial Army poised to invade China, American journalist Helen Foster Snow stumbled across a horrible find under the city's ancient wallsˇXthe murdered, eviscerated body of 16-year-old English schoolgirl Pamela Werner. Down the street, Ms. Snow's husband, Edgar Snow, was writing his classic book, "Red Star Over China," a sympathetic account of Mao Zedong's guerilla army. Of similar height and build, Ms. Snow wondered: Had an anti-Communist killer meant to strike her?
Scotland Yard's suspects included an unknown psychopath; Ms. Werner's dentist, the American Dr. Prentice, who ran a swingers' club (a "love cult" in 1930s parlance) to which the schoolgirl belonged; and the victim's own father. The killer was never found.
This forgotten cause célèbre, a true crime tale authored by Shanghai-based entrepreneur Paul French, is the first book deal struck by Penguin China chief representative Jo Lusby for a new, exclusively China-originated list to be launched next year. Modeled on the launch 22 years ago of Penguin Books India, the five to eight fiction and nonfiction titles will be printed in English, in China, and sold domestically and across the Asia-Pacific region. The wholly owned venture will be run out of Penguin's Hong Kong office, as ISBN numbers are tightly controlled in mainland China.
Penguin wants to take advantage of signs of buoyancy and change in China's 6.5 billion yuan ($950 million) publishing market, long strangled by censorship and a bewildering mass of regulatory controls. Things gathered pace in April when Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), announced de facto legalization of the country's 10,000 private publishers.
The relief across the industry is palpable. "It's like this: If I had a girlfriend before, now I have a marriage certificate. She's my wife," joked He Xiongfei, founder of the private publisher Jewish Culture Workroom, which publishes a range of titles including books on art collecting, cannibalism and social commentary, as well as subjects of Jewish interest.
For Ms. Lusby, it's a step away from Penguin's parent company in London, a process of devolution she believes will grow as publishers globally increasingly respond to local demand. "Rather than us sitting halfway round the world asking for other people to please publish this book for us because we actually believe it will work, it's us being able to take the ball and run with it," said Ms. Lusby in an interview last week.
Penguin's move is a big deal in China, where private publishers, called "culture companies" or "workrooms," have inhabited a shadowy world for nearly 20 years. Although they are smaller than state-run publishers, they are more commercially savvy and have growing clout. Up to 60% of China's bestsellers are published by private companies that must cooperate with state houses, still the only source of coveted ISBN numbers. To stop publishers sneaking in politically unacceptable content, the government grants ISBN numbers just weeks before publication, making advance sales and marketing very difficult. In a revealing admission, GAPP Vice Minister Wu Shulin said in June that 600 books out of the 275,000 published last year were denied publication for unacceptable content, with the offending material relating to what the government calls "splittism," or calling for regional or ethnic independence; subversion; or incitement to war.
While welcoming the legalization of private publishers, Huang Yuhai, president of the highly successful Shanghai 99 ReadersˇXthe local publisher of Dan Brown, Stephen King and Philip Roth books in ChinaˇXwants more. The new rules "don't really give private publishers the ability to publish, because they don't give us the ISBN number," he says. Cooperating with loss-making, state-owned publishing houses also drains profits.
Yet there's another change working to Chinese private publishers' advantage: the government's three-year "commercialization" plan to remove all subsidies from state publishers by spring 2012. The subject is politically sensitive, with publishing and media widely expected to be the last barrier to fall in China's long process of economic restructuring that began in 1978 with Deng Xiaoping's Open Door policy. Even the name is carefully chosen: "We don't say 'privatization'," said Hang Min, an associate professor of media economics and management at Tsinghua University's School of Journalism and Communication.
Still Ms. Hang is upbeat. "I think this sends a very good signal to other aspects of the media industry. The government wants to have certain kinds of reform and progress and the book publishing industry is a good place to start."
Whereas before, private publishers bought an ISBN from state companies for around 25,000 yuan ($3,600), the relationship now is that of joint investors, said Shanghai 99 Readers Deputy Editor Peng Lun. "We have had five or six state-owned houses approach us with a view to cooperate just in the last several months," he says. For its part, Penguin is not a local private publisher but aims to act like one. "We're in a market, to be honest, that demands we be more nimble, because things in China are changing very fast," says Ms. Lusby.
One sign of that change is the next book on her list: "Notes of a Civil Servant," a roiling tale of government corruption and mafia by Wang Xiaofang. Mr. Wang is an impeccable source, as former secretary to the deputy mayor of Shenyang, Ma Xiangdong, executed in 2001 for corruption. Only a few years ago, this kind of book would have been banned in China. Now, it's easily available in big cities. It's a different kind of true crime story than what was happening in the 1930s, but no less important.
(Reuters) Kadeer slams Book Fair for honouring China. October 19, 2009.
Exiled Uygur leader Rebiya Kadeer sharply criticised the Frankfurt Book Fair for inviting China as its guest this year, arguing that the country should not be honoured given its poor human rights track record.
ˇ§It is just not right to welcome a country, where executions are a daily occurrence and human rights are treated with disrespect,ˇ¨ Kadeer, a former businesswoman who now leads the exile group the World Uygur Congress, said at the book fair on Sunday, the last day of the fair.
ˇ§Before the Olympic Games, the world was of the opinion China would be forced to respect human rights more as the world turned its attention to the games in China,ˇ¨ said Kadeer, her long grey hair in her signature braids and wearing a traditional four-cornered Uygur cap.
Amnesty International in a report last year criticised China for failing to honour vows to improve rights that officials made in lobbying for the Games, and said it did not live up to commitments as an Olympic host last year.
ˇ§Instead of drawing lessons from that event, the book fair invited China as its guest...but what happened on July 5 demonstrates how China treats human rights and its citizens,ˇ¨ Kadeer said, referring to violent unrest in July that shook Chinaˇ¦s northwest region of Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uygurs.
China says Kadeer orchestrated the ethnic violence in July in which 200 people were killed. She denies the allegation.
Along with Tibet, Xinjiang is one of the most politically sensitive regions in China and in both places the government has sought to maintain its grip by controlling religious and cultural life while promising economic growth and prosperity.
Book Fair organisers defended their controversial choice. ˇ§We condemn limitations of human rights and limitations of freedom of speech,ˇ¨ fair director Juergen Boos said. ˇ§Not talking about unpleasant subjects has not helped in the past, we have to be open and deal with them,ˇ¨ he added.
(New York Times) At Book Fair, a Subplot About Chinese Rights. By Steven Erlanger and Jonathan Ansfield. October 19, 2009.
As China extends its economic reach, it has also increased efforts to promote its culture, or ˇ§soft power,ˇ¨ to counter Western influence and improve its image in the wider world.
Yet if Chinese goods are accepted everywhere, its arts and literature, embattled at home after decades of censorship and state control, are proving harder for the government to export.
After years of delicate preparations, China was the ˇ§honored guestˇ¨ this past week at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest and most influential book trade event, based on the number of publishers represented. But what Beijing hoped would be a celebration of its cultural achievements turned into a tug of war between control and free speech, as much a showcase for Chinese dissidents as the stateˇ¦s approved writers.
Mao Zedong said that power flowed from the ˇ§wielders of the pen,ˇ¨ not only from the gun. But the chairman would not be amused to find books like ˇ§Mao: The Unknown Story,ˇ¨ an indictment of his rule that is banned in China, displayed alongside the official Chinese exhibit at this yearˇ¦s fair, which ended Sunday.
When the German organizers and diplomats urged the Chinese to allow a prominent storyteller and musician, Liao Yiwu, to come to Frankfurt, the authorities refused to lift his overseas travel ban, and told him to stop talking about it.
A symposium preceding the book fair titled ˇ§China and the World ˇX Perceptions and Realities,ˇ¨ became a major confrontation. Fair organizers withdrew invitations to two dissident writers the Chinese wanted to exclude, Dai Qing and Bei Ling, but welcomed them at the last minute after criticism by journalists and politicians. When the writers made statements, the Chinese delegation walked out, only to return after an abject apology by the fairˇ¦s director, Jürgen Boos.
ˇ§We did not come to be instructed about democracy,ˇ¨ declared Mei Zhaorong, Chinaˇ¦s former ambassador to Germany.
Unlike the exquisitely choreographed ceremonies during the Beijing Olympics, the fair presented a messier and more ambiguous portrait of China on the rise ˇX a country still deeply uncomfortable with its own discordant voices, yet eager to become more competitive with the West in the realm of ideas.
China controlled its own massive display of books, artwork and authors at the fair, including even books from Taiwan, to underline its assertion of ˇ§One China.ˇ¨ But it could not censor the 2,500 books about China displayed by others. And while Beijing had many consultations with the German government and arguments with the fair organizers, it ultimately did not push to prevent dissidents and critics ˇX even representatives of the Dalai Lama ˇX from attending the event.
The book fair is not the Beijing Olympics and ˇ§cannot be controlled,ˇ¨ said Mr. Boos. He apologized for mishandling the symposium, but said: ˇ§It is the beginning of a cultural dialogue. And dialogue is not easy.ˇ¨ Still, Chinese officials did not attend dissident events, ˇ§which were full of people who already agreed with the dissidents,ˇ¨ said the German novelist Tanja Kinkel. ˇ§They were preaching to the choir,ˇ¨ she said.
The Chinese themselves were annoyed. With SpiegelOnline headlining its coverage ˇ§China, the Unwelcome Guest,ˇ¨ several official Chinese delegates told colleagues that Europeˇ¦s politicians and news media were strongly biased.
Li Pengyi, a delegation member and vice president of China Publishing Group Corporation, said happily that China had sold nearly 900 copyrights here. But he complained about the coverage.
ˇ§We donˇ¦t feel weˇ¦ve been hospitably treated,ˇ¨ he said. ˇ§China sent more than 2,000 people to Frankfurt. And now this barrage of criticism.ˇ¨ Zhao Haiyun, spokesman for Chinaˇ¦s General Administration of Press and Publication, said that instead of focusing on literature, the media had focused on human rights and censorship. ˇ§The German media are very biased,ˇ¨ he said.
Even so, the Chinese did not pull out. The Beijing leadership sent Xi Jinping, Chinaˇ¦s vice president and heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, a measure of the political weight they attached to the event.
Michael Naumann, a former German culture minister and now publisher and editor of Die Zeit, a prominent weekly newspaper, said German organizers misjudged the complications of honoring China in a year laden with controversy, including the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 20th anniversary of the crushed Tiananmen Square democracy movement and the 60th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule.
ˇ§I think the people who run the book fair were kind of naïve when they invited the Chinese,ˇ¨ he said. ˇ§But opening this enormous window of the book fair to Chinese writers, whether they are censored or not, will give them a way to sniff out the open forum of intellectual debate.ˇ¨ Since 2004, China has pursued what it calls its ˇ§going outˇ¨ policy on the cultural front, trying to square its economic influence and new status as a global power, while trying to defuse criticism on issues like Tibet, Taiwan and human rights.
There have been yearlong cultural exchanges with many countries; the opening of hundreds of language teaching centers known as Confucius Institutes; new foreign-language services from official media like Xinhua and CCTV; and new interest in foreign platforms like the Kennedy Center and the Europalia festival in Brussels.
There have been other furors. When China was featured at the 2004 Paris Book Fair, officials initially persuaded the French not to invite the Nobel literature laureate Gao Xingjian, a French citizen whose books are banned in China.
But Frankfurt, with its 7,300 publishers and 300,000 visitors, was a much riskier venture.
Jing Bartz has been the fairˇ¦s chief representative in Beijing since 2003 and negotiated strenuously with Chinese publication officials. ˇ§China has really wanted to use this platform to promote Chinese culture,ˇ¨ she said. ˇ§On the other side, they are worried because they canˇ¦t use Chinese rules to do it.ˇ¨ What helped persuade China was the cultural trade gap. At the 2005 Beijing book fair, the Chinese were shocked that German publishers sold 600 copyrighted works to China while the Chinese sold just one to Germany, Mrs. Bartz said.
Chinese officials worried particularly that the Dalai Lama might attend, or that books would be displayed from adversaries like the banned movement Falun Gong.
The breakthrough came in 2006, said Mrs. Bartz, when Shi Zongyuan, then head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, told organizers: ˇ§We just have to make it very clear what is our guest of honor program, and what are the other events.ˇ¨ China invested $15 million and managed nearly every detail of its exhibition. There was much argument over what translations to finance. The 20 new German-published volumes China financed include works by major writers, like Jiang Rongˇ¦s ˇ§Wolf Totem,ˇ¨ Yu Huaˇ¦s ˇ§Brothers,ˇ¨ and Xu Zechenˇ¦s ˇ§Running Through Zhongguancun.ˇ¨ Mr. Xuˇ¦s hit, about a migrant hawking pirated DVDs and fake IDs in the capital, was unexpected. But of some 100 newly translated titles that China promoted, most are banal introductions to China from state publishers.
ˇ§The government has not put on such a concentrated, large-scale event before to promote Chinese literature, so I think itˇ¦s a good opportunity,ˇ¨ said Mr. Xu, 31. ˇ§Because of the governmentˇ¦s involvement, there are inevitably going to be these ideological problems. But we just have to be responsible to ourselves.ˇ¨ Since the uproar over the symposium last month, said Mr. Boos and Mrs. Bartz, China has appeared more relaxed. Officials eventually gave up protesting the attendance of those like the Uighur independence advocate Rebiya Kadeer; the Dalai Lamaˇ¦s envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen; Ms. Dai, Mr. Bei or Mr. Gao.
ˇ§They tried to learn,ˇ¨ Mrs. Bartz said. But she confirmed that while the Chinese were ˇ§very satisfied with the business resultsˇ¨ of the fair, ˇ§they donˇ¦t really feel they were welcomed as guests here.ˇ¨ The word went down from the top, she said, not to react to demonstrations or provocations from protesters or journalists.
Back in China, however, the fair has not brought any noticeable easing of restrictions.
Mr. Liao, the writer and musician, was imprisoned from 1990 to 1994 after he wrote a poem about the Tiananmen massacre. Despite an invitation here ˇX he hoped to promote his book about Chinaˇ¦s downtrodden, known in English as ˇ§The Corpse Walkerˇ¨ ˇX the police would not lift a ban on his going overseas.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Liao said it was not a complete loss for him or other underground writers, given the publicity. ˇ§Only by going through these incidents, it seems, can we become known to the outside world,ˇ¨ he said.
(New York Times) Book Fair Fires Official for Approach to Chinese. By Steven Erlanger. October 22, 2009.
The Frankfurt Book Fair, which struggled to find a balance between free speech and honoring China as its featured country, dismissed its project manager after yet another embarrassing refusal to let Chinese dissidents speak.
The fair, the worldˇ¦s largest and most important, ended on Sunday with a traditional ceremony co-hosted by the German Foreign Ministry. But two Chinese dissident writers ˇX the journalist Dai Qing and the poet Bei Ling ˇX were not allowed to address the closing ceremony, despite what they said were invitations to do so.
Fair organizers later fired Peter Ripken, 67, who was the project manager for the trade showˇ¦s international center, blaming him for ˇ§persistent coordination problems in connection with this yearˇ¦s guest of honor, China.ˇ¨ Mr. Ripken said that it was the German Foreign Ministry, which has refused to comment, that did not want the dissidents to speak, and told the German news service Deutsche Welle: ˇ§The Foreign Ministry has stated explicitly that this fair is not there just for China, and I acted in accordance with this wish.ˇ¨ He said that the Chinese writers were never formally invited to address the closing ceremony.
The fair organizers also blamed Mr. Ripken for a similar embarrassment in mid-September, when a symposium on China ended in walkouts, apologies and confusion. The same two Chinese writers were invited, and were removed from the symposium by Mr. Ripken after Beijing protested. But after an uproar among German journalists and diplomats, the invitation was reinstated, but not to speak from the podium along with the official Chinese delegation.
When the dissidents spoke from the floor, the Chinese walked out, and returned only after an apology made to them by the fairˇ¦s director, Jürgen Boos.
Mr. Bei told Deutsche Welle that Mr. Ripken had told him that the Foreign Ministry opposed the dissidentsˇ¦ participation in the closing ceremony, apparently believing that Beijingˇ¦s nerves had been sufficiently jangled by the fair itself.
More than 290,000 people visited the fair, down 9,000 from 2008.
(Deutsche Welle) Book fair dismisses official for treatment of Chinese dissidents. October 19, 2009.
The organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair have fired project manager Peter Ripken after he prevented two Chinese activists from speaking at the fair's closing ceremony, bringing a sour note to an already disputed fair.
The decision to sack Ripken was made after he reportedly approached the Chinese environmental activist and writer Dai Qing before the closing ceremony and told her that she wasn't allowed to give a speech. Afterwards, Ripken defended himself saying the German foreign ministry - which was co-hosting the book fair - didn't want Qing as a guest speaker, even though she had been informed by fair officials in September that she was to speak at the ceremony.
"These closing ceremonies had absolutely nothing to do with China," Ripken said. "The foreign ministry has stated explicitly that this fair is not there just for China, and I acted in accordance with this wish," the 67-year-old added. Reports said Ripken also prevented the Chinese activist and poet, Bei Ling, from taking part in the ceremony.
Book fair representatives said in a statement that "ongoing difficulties" with Ripken were what led to his immediate dismissal from the fair. In the run-up to the fair, Ripken garnered widespread criticism after uninviting Dai Qing and Bei Ling from a symposium in Frankfurt. Ripken said he was responding to pressure from China - the guest of honor of this year's book fair - not to let the activists participate in the symposium.
Bei, who lives and works in the US, said it wasn't just Ripken who was against the activists giving speeches at the closing ceremony. "[Ripken] and others told me that the foreign ministry was against our participation in the ceremony. I would like to know the reason why this is so," he said.
The foreign ministry has yet to comment on the affair. Chinese officials, however, were expressly against the participation of the two activists, especially Dai, who is regarded as a harsh critic of China's environmental policies.
During the five-day book fair in Frankfurt, grievances arose regarding oppression and freedom of speech in China.
(Asia Times) China's culture offensive hits a wall By Antoaneta Bezlova Octgober 27, 2009.
his year's Frankfurt Book Fair may have been more of an embarrassment than prestige for its guest of honor - China - but the country's cultural mandarins still believe that the future of cultural ideas belongs to the Middle Kingdom and that the global financial crisis will play a role in helping them achieve that.
Wu Wei - the woman behind Beijing's "going global" project for Chinese literature - told the Southern Weekend, a popular newspaper, last week that the economic downturn has focused global attention on China in just about every aspect. "In the West in particular, it has made many people talk about China's model and what will happen when China 'rules the world'," she said. "But the West knows little about China's culture and ideas and ignorance breeds fear. It is the source of all kinds of 'threat' and 'collapse' theories. But this interest is also a chance for us to propagate our ideas."
Beijing has exploited international attention to the full, raising its global profile in politics and economic affairs and even attempting to export its economic model. Leaving a mark in the world of cultural ideas, though, has presented a tougher challenge. For several years now, Beijing has battled to reverse its "cultural deficit", where it imports 10 times more books than it exports. Now one of the world's largest economies and trading powers, China has spearheaded a cultural counteroffensive in a belief that cultural industry is the next step in its transformation from global upstart to superstar.
As part of this attempt to raise the country's cultural profile abroad Beijing has invested in hundreds of Confucian institutes that are teaching Mandarin around the world and launching new foreign-language media outlets. In publishing, Wu, as a senior official at the Information Department of the State Council, has led a team of experts tasked with selecting the most appealing titles to be translated and marketed around the world. They spent nearly five years and invested US$15 million preparing for China's debut at the Frankfurt Book Fair - referred to here as the "Olympics of the publishing world" - which was held on October 14-18. The country was featured as the guest of honor - a choice that pleased Beijing in a year marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the communist republic. But to the cultural officials' dismay, the event was marred with controversy and spats over human rights and press freedoms.
Two conflicting images of China squabbled for limelight at the fair - one, of the state-sponsored written word, put forward by Beijing, and the other of China on the fringe, presented by dissidents living abroad and fighting for their voices to be heard.
Xi Jinping, Chinese vice president and seen by some people as a likely heir to party chief Hu Jintao, led the official delegation of 50 state-endorsed writers and 600 artists. They presented some 100 translated books - the first fruits of Beijing's "going out" project for Chinese literature. These included two volumes by former party chief Jiang Zemin - one on China's foray into the information technology industry and another on the country's energy policies. Fiction titles included best-selling works such as Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem and Yu Hua's Brothers. Beijing, however, was clearly uncomfortable with allowing anyone outside of the state umbrella to speak for China. Despite an invitation extended by the fair organizers, Beijing banned author Liao Yiwu from attending the event. After serving a four-year prison sentence for writing poetry about the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Liao has remained under surveillance by police, who refused to lift his travel ban. Liao's book on China's underprivileged, The Corpse Walker, as well as his essays about the survivors and victims of last year's earthquake in Sichuan, have reportedly rankled censors at home.
Still, there was a lot the official Chinese delegation could not control. Author-in-exile Bei Ling and writer Dai Qing, whose books about the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement and the Three Gorges Dam - the world's largest dam, which has generated much controversy at home and abroad - are banned on the mainland, represented dissident China. Envoys of Tibetan exiled leader the Dalai Lama and Uyghur pro-independence advocate Rebiya Kadeer, condemned by Beijing as a terrorist, were also present.
Beijing could not prevent the foreign media from zooming in on its intolerance of free speech and criticizing the communist party. When German magazine Der Spiegel ran a feature on the fair, headlined "China, the Unwelcome Guest", Chinese delegates protested that European media and political circles were biased. China's clout, though, was felt behind the scenes. Bei Ling and Dai Qing were barred from making speeches at the closing ceremony. An outcry from the public and the media forced the fair organizers to fire the project manager for striking off the names of the dissident writers from the list of speakers at the last moment.
Beijing put a positive spin on the outcome of the fair, despite the embarrassment caused by the tug-of-war between the official Chinese delegation and the dissident lobby. The country's sprawling pavilion at Frankfurt - featuring scrolls with different styles of calligraphy and an engraved "ink pool" - was described by the media here as the "place to be". "This is an achievement of immense pride for us," Li Pengyi, a delegation member and vice president of the China Publishing Group, told reporters at the end of the fair. "One can say we are going home with two bumper harvests - one for the Chinese culture in general and one for China's copyright trade.ˇ¨
To continue raising the country's cultural profile abroad even in the middle of the current economic downturn, Chinese officials have decided to offer free books to about 100 libraries around the world, according to Wu Wei.
At a book fair at Ditan Park in Beijing, some of the crowd have heard about Beijing's reception in Frankfurt. "Foreigners always seek to embarrass China," said student Zhang Ziying. "With so much prejudice, how can they like any of our books?" But Lin Xuecong, who introduced himself only as a "book lover", says there is little worthy that is being written in China these days. "It is not about who are the authors of these books. It is about whether they can touch your heart and mind."