London Book Fair Draws Criticism for Exclusion of Exiled Chinese Authors
Organizers of the London Book Fair are facing criticism for inviting only state-approved Chinese authors to the event, allegedly bowing to pressure from authorities to exclude dissident and exiled voices. Bei Ling, a poet and essayist who was arrested 12 years ago for publishing the quarterly journal Tendency, has written the British Council, the organization that oversees the event, to express his disappointment:
I was amazed that no independent voice, no exiled or dissident writer from China is being represented at the London Book Fair. It is shocking enough that the book fair has worked with GAPP (the Chinese regulating body that handles literature). In order to ensure that their guest country was happy they exercised self-censorship and didn’t push for other, non-state-approved writers, although without them you don’t get a full picture of literary China.
This year’s fair focuses on China, yet missing from the attendance sheet are 2000 Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who lives in exile in Paris, and 2010 Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is incarcerated in China on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”.
The English branch of Pen, a writer’s association, has even limited their participation in the fair. Member Sarah Hesketh said the group would only be hosting an event for one visiting author, novelist Bi Feiyu, stating:
We’re keen to engage in cultural exchange but at the same time we didn’t feel that given our human rights work in China…we could be seen to endorse an official state-sponsored delegation for whom there will be restrictions on what they can say.
Susie Nicklin of the British Council defended her organization, saying they had taken great care to ensure that “all sorts of voices are heard”, adding that Bei’s insistence on the inclusion of exiled author’s was wrong-headed, as the event is intended for people living and writing in China.
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