When 28-year-old Chinese author Han Han launched the literary magazine Dangzhongyang, its first edition sold all 1.5 million copies. But it had a short life. The publishing partners fell off and he now writes on his blog – which has a readership of about 300 million people – that there will never be a number two.
‘Dangzhongyang’ is a word for communistChina’s Central Committee, but it can also be translated as ‘A chorus of soloists’, which sounds more of decentralisation and freedom of expression.
In an email to the Wall Street Journal Han Han explains that he “does not know where the pressure came from – who it was that got almost all publishers to suddenly declare that they could not cooperate with me.”
Han Han has gone from writing teen books about teenage life to criticize inequality in society. Gradually he has turned into a dissident voice in China. He was born in 1982 in Shanghai, and debuted as a writer when he was 19 years old. Since then he has published 14 books which have been sold in a six-digit number of copies. He is also a professional rally driver, a singer and a music producer, and not least the owner of one of the world’s most widely read blogs: www.blog.sina.com.cn/twocold (in Chinese)
“If he just stood on a barrel and shouted that the Communist Party is stupid, he would drop out. But he he is very dangerous for the regime, because he is so cunning,” says Danish journalist and author Mette Holm who has written the book ‘Asia and Human Rights – a guide’:
“If you look at other writers who have expressed themselves under extreme censorship, such as the Soviet’s Andrei Sakharov or the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Havel, they were really good at expressing a sophisticated critique that did not fall under censorship.”
“Ambiguity are quite typical of youth quiet rebellion in China,” explained Mette Holm to the Danish newspaper Politiken. She mentioned an example from YouTube, where a song about the bold and persevering imaginary ‘grass-mud horse’ become a big hit in China. Perhaps because the word ‘grass-mud horse’ sounds surprisingly like ‘your mother’s vagina’ on the main Chinese dialect of Mandarin.
Grass-Mud Horse defeats the invasion of the ‘River Crab’ – a word that sounds like ‘harmony’ in Chinese, which is a popular reference to censorship.
Xiao Qiang, an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the grass-mud horse is an icon of resistance to censorship.
Chinese culture under threat
Han Han’s critique is more radical than songs about animals with obscene-sounding names.
In an interview with New York Times at his office in Shanghai, he didn’t hesitate to call the Communist Party officials ‘useless’. He sayd he fears that censorship will eventually wipe out the Chinese culture:
“If we continue like this, China will eventually only be known for tea and pandas,” he told New York Times.
The solution lies in cyberspace, he said:
“I think the government will eventually undo the Internet. Originally they thought it would be like the newspaper or tv – that is just another way they could get their views across to people. What they did not understand was that people can write and respond. It’s really been a headache for them.”
New York Times on 12 March 2012:
Heartthrob’s Blog Challenges China’s Leaders