Mei Fong Self-Publishes Translation of “One Child”

Foreign authors who write about China often face a choice between having their work censored to fit the demands of Chinese publishers or not in the country at all. In recent years, writers such as the New Yorker’s Peter Hessler and historian Ezra Vogel have explained why they feel the mandated cuts are worth the cost, while others, including Hessler’s New Yorker colleague Evan Osnos, have opted not to publish Chinese editions through mainland publishers. At the same time, publishers in Hong Kong are hesitant to take on political titles following a crackdown on publishers and booksellers there. When journalist Mei Fong tried to publish a Chinese edition of her book about China’s family planning policies, “One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment,” no China- or Hong Kong-based publisher would take it on, due to the sensitive nature of the topic. In order to make her book available to Chinese readers, Fong has self-published a Chinese edition and is now distributing it for free to readers behind the Great Firewall (while also asking for donations to help cover her costs). Ilaria Maria Sala writes for Quartz:

“At present, everything comes out of my own pockets,” Fong said. “I tried to get the book published in China, since that is the audience most affected by the topic I write about, but I was turned down. I did not think it was that sensitive anymore, since they amended the policy, yet obviously it still is, so nobody would publish the translation. We tried through Hong Kong, but the situation there has gotten so hard that I did not find a publisher either. Taiwan is a different issue, as it remains quite difficult to get publishers interested in books about China there.”

[…] Fong’s difficulties come as the outlook for Hong Kong’s book publishers is becoming increasingly dire.

[…] Renee Chiang of New Century Press, a house that specializes in Chinese language political books, echoed those woes. “Now, we find ourselves unable to print books, since the printers will not take orders for politically sensitive books… all across the book industry things have changed a lot. Bookshops have closed down, and those that remain are not willing to have political books on their shelves.”