Banned in Beijing – Jennifer Chou

From The Standard:

On January 1, 2007, the Chinese government loosened restrictions on the media, including those that limited the freedom of foreign journalists to travel and conduct interviews in the country. Shortly after, the Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Without Borders announced an end to its boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Foreign media began speculating whether the easing of control might even go beyond next year’s Summer Games and, more generally, whether it signaled a new willingness on the part of China’s censors to permit greater freedom of speech.

They did not have to speculate for long. At a January 11th meeting of the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), GAPP’s deputy director Wu Shulin produced a list of banned books from 2006 and threatened to slap publishers who defy the ban with stiff financial penalties. Of the eight books on the list, seven were blackballed because their contents “stepped over the line.” Wu did not specify where the that line was, but the message to writers could not have been more clear.

The list of banned books includes both fiction and non-fiction. Trials and Tribulations, by Xiao Jian, depicts a man’s tortured life between the 1911 Republican Revolution and the 1958 Great Leap Forward. The Press, by Zhu Huaxiang, is a fictional narrative of the inner workings of China’s media industry. And The Other Stories of History: My Days at the Supplement Division of the People’s Daily, written by veteran journalist Yuan Ying, is an insider’s account of work at the Communist party’s organ paper. Although Yuan Ying’s book deals with events that occurred at the paper during the 1980s, GAPP’s deputy director claimed that it had “divulged state secrets.” [Full Text]

Read also: China book ban controversy underscores public opposition to government censorship from The China Media Project, the University of Hong Kong:

The book ban controversy is also backgrounded by another upcoming anniversary — the fiftieth anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, launched in July 1957. Reference to this historical event, in which tens of thousands were purged as “rightist” elements critical of the policies of Mao Zedong, is apropos because the language of the GAPP ban targets not just content deemed unacceptable, but the writers themselves. GAPP Deputy Director Wu Shulin used the words “this person” to refer to Zhang Yihe in particular. Which is why Zhang Yihe, the daughter of a prominent “rightist” purged in 1957, alludes to factionalism in her public statement: “I understand that in Mr. Wu’s eyes, Zhang Yihe is a rightist. OK, let’s say I am a rightist. I’d like to ask: Isn’t a rightist a citizen [with a constitutional right to free speech/Chapter II, Article 25] all the same?”.‚Ä®‚Ä®On top of this, the book ban controversy underscores the sometimes puzzling lack of uniformity in policy decisions and their execution that marks a China in transition. While the GAPP ban was issued on January 11, the January 14 edition of the official People’s Daily included a brief item about one of the books on the list, Yuan Ying’s (Ë¢ÅÈπ∞) memoir titled Other Stories of History: My Days at the Supplements Division of the People’s Daily (È£é‰∫ë‰æßËÆ∞:ÊàëÂú®‰∫∫Ê∞ëÊó•Êä•ÂâØÂàäÁöÑÂ≤ÅÊúà). Reviews of other books on the list, including Zhang Yihe’s, have appeared in various newspapers since the GAPP ban.

And also: GAPP: books criticized, but not banned on Danwei blog.

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