After a month of controversy over its choice of China as Guest of Honor, this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair has finally opened, as Vice President Xi Jinping meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. AFP reports on the fair’s efforts to honor freedom of expression despite earlier attempts by China to censor dissident voices:
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.
Both Xi and Merkel spoke at the opening, and, as DPA reports, presented slightly differing views of the role of literature:
“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.
Der Spiegel, meanwhile,
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