Yu Hua: Censorship’s Many Faces

Author Yu Hua explains the different levels of censorship applied to Chinese media—from tightly controlled film, through TV and newspapers, to books—and dissects the varying political and economic considerations that account for them. From The New York Times:

On Weibo, a kind of Chinese Twitter, I recently made a joking comparison between media censorship and the pervasive threat of contaminated food, a constant source of worry:

“There’s no end to these food scares,” a friend sighed. “Is there any hope of a solution?”

“Oh, all we need is for food inspections to be as forceful as film censorship,” I told him breezily. “With all that faultfinding and nit-picking, food-safety issues will be resolved in no time.”

More than 12,000 readers reposted this. One wrote: I know what we should do. Let’s have those in charge of film, newspaper and book censorship take over food safety, and have those responsible for food safety censor films, papers and books. That way we’ll have food safety — and freedom of expression as well!

The unpredictable whims of film censors at the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television have been blamed for wrecking China’s Oscar chances, and even state media have carried calls for a more consistent and codified approach. SARFT has been extending its reach to cover online video and require pre-vetting of TV documentaries, however, and Hollywood productions increasingly subject themselves to its censorship in exchange for access to Chinese funding and theaters. Meanwhile, the country has witnessed a seemingly endless stream of food safety problems, most recently cadmium-tainted rice.

Yu’s op-ed was translated by Allan H. Barr, who commented on his translations of Yu Hua and Han Han in an interview at Pomona College’s website (via CDT) in December. See more on Yu Hua via CDT.

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