The London Book Fair, which is one of the biggest international publishing events in the world and which is focusing on China this year, is facing claims it has bowed to pressure from Chinese authorities by failing to invite dissident and exiled writers to April’s event, choosing only state-approved authors.
“It is shocking enough that the book fair has worked with GAPP [General Administration of Press and Publication – the agency responsible for regulating publications in China]. 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,” said Bei Ling, an exiled poet and essayist, who has written to complain to the British Council, the organisers of the cultural programme of the fair.
Bei Ling was arrested 12 years ago for illegally publishing his quarterly journal, Tendency, and has been banned from entering the country since. He told The Guardian that there were startling omissions in the Chinese lineup, which was meant to represent the country’s literary scene. “Missing voices” included the 2000 Nobel laureate, Gao Xingjian, who lives in exile in Paris, as well as his friend Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel peace prize, a leading literary critic who is imprisoned in China. Liao Yiwu, an exiled writer living in Berlin, and the popular London-based storyteller Ma Jian were also omitted, noted Bei Ling.
The Guardian on 20 March 2012:
London Book Fair criticised for inviting only state-approved Chinese writers
Exiled Chinese poet Bei Ling says he is ‘amazed no independent voice, no exiled or dissident writer’ is being represented