Li Chengpeng’s Silent Book Signing

Li wore a black face mask in silent protest at his Chengdu book signing.

On January 11, popular writer and critic Li Chengpeng reported on Weibo that he had received orders not to speak at his book signing in Chengdu the next day. Li was also prohibited from asking questions of the audience. Even special guests, among them prominent writers who have clashed with the authorities before, were forbidden from speaking:

@lichengpeng: Someone sent me strict orders from the higher-ups in the middle of the night: At my Chengdu book signing on the 12th, readers are forbidden to ask me questions; I am forbidden from speaking or making opening remarks. I can’t even say “Happy New Year” or “thank you.” I am forbidden from introducing Liu Shahe, Ran Yunfei, and all other special guests; I cannot ask them questions, and they cannot say a word, not even “Happy New Year.” They can only sit in the corner… This deeply violates my understanding of respect. They are insane. Thinking…

@李承鹏:深夜有人匆忙传达上峰死命令:12日成都签售,不准读者向我提问、不准我说话,不准我致开场白,连“新年好,谢谢你们”也不准说,不准介绍流沙 河、冉云飞及所有嘉宾名字,不准向他们提问,也不准他们说话,连“新年好”也不准说。他们只能坐在角落…我深觉这这违背了我对尊严的理解。他们疯了。思考中…

His new book, The Whole World Knows, is a collection of essays on contemporary Chinese society. It tackles sensitive issues like the “tofu dregs” schools which collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the disastrous corner-cutting laid bare by the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash.

Li later reposted a weibo from a reader at the book signing:

@lichengpeng: RT: @alexandermoo: At the scene where these notices were given, I’ve heard the voices of Li Yawei, Ran Yunfei, and many others. I can verify that two Xinhua Bookstore staff are present as well… Right now I’m still on the phone with bookstore comrades. My thoughts: this shows the utmost disrespect to the readers, some of whom rushed all the way from Shanghai just for this event. They don’t want to look at a bunch of taciturn prostheses. The latest news: the authorities have notified the speakers that they may not utter a single word.

@李承鹏:回复@拉斯文_本德:接到通知的现场,有李亚伟冉云飞等数人听到,两位新华书店也可证明…现在仍与书店同志电话中。我认为:这完全无视读者的尊严,有读者专门从上海赶来。他们不想看到一群觉沉默的假肢。最新消息:上级通知,绝不许说一句话。

Weibo fans rallied to Li’s side:

@joylovingheart: If they don’t let them speak, they might as well tape their mouths shut.

@爱乐的心: 不让说话,那就用胶布把嘴贴起来签售

@ziyueqingye: They get sent to the firing squad for saying “Happy New Year”? This expands my understanding of limiting freedom of speech.

@owlmoon豆丁兔:说新年好会被枪毙吗?我对限制言论自由的理解又高一层了

@youyi009: What are they [the authorities] afraid of? What exactly is it that they dread?

@幽壹:它们怕什么?究竟在惧怕什么?

@xieliang7: If they can’t speak, can they tweet? They can communicate via Weibo at the book signing.

@谢良7:不说话可以发微博吗 现场用微博交流

@Billsaid: Looks like Li Big Eyes should change his name to Li Don’t Speak. That’s sure to catch on.

@Billsaid:看来李大眼得改名叫李莫言了,这个笔名一定火。

@MountainUncle: I urge the higher-ups to offer free packing tape!

@山宅大叔:强烈要求上峰免费提供封口胶~!!

@ligelongClingclang: What the higher-ups mean is that the interests of the individual can’t influence the interests of the party-state. We must be united with absolute sincerity.

@李哥隆咚锵:上峰的意思是个人的利益不能影响党国的利益,要精诚团结

@nky888nky: Only after repeated prohibition is one unstoppable. They wish to cover you up, but instead you is all the more obvious. This is all free advertising. The voiceless is even more victorious in making his voice heard.

@可人如昱:屡禁才能不止,欲盖反而弥彰,这一切都是免费的广告。无声更胜有声。

@Wchengbo: The dynasty has changed, but the way of thought is unchangeable.

@W成波:朝代换了,思维换不了

Read more about the book signing kerfuffle from CDT and Global Voices.

Via CDT Chinese.