Cen­sor­ship a must, says No­bel lit­er­a­ture win­ner

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Louise Nord­strom

STOCK­HOLM — This year’s No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture win­ner, Mo Yan, who has been crit­i­cized for his mem­ber­ship in China’s Com­mu­nist Party and re­luc­tance to speak out against the coun­try’s government, de­fended cen­sor­ship Thurs­day as some­thing as nec­es­sary as air­port se­cu­rity checks.

He also sug­gested he won’t join an ap­peal call­ing for the re­lease of the jailed 2010 Peace Prize lau­re­ate, Liu Xiaobo, a fel­low writer and com­pa­triot.

Mo has been crit­i­cized by hu­man rights ac­tivists for not be­ing a more out­spo­ken de­fender of free­dom of speech and for sup­port­ing the Com­mu­nist Party-backed writ­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, of which he is vice pres­i­dent.

His com­ments Thurs­day, made dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, ap­pear un­likely to soften his crit­ics’ views to­ward him.

Award­ing him the lit­er­a­ture prize has also brought crit­i­cism from pre­vi­ous win­ners. Herta Mueller, the 2009 lit­er­a­ture lau­re­ate, last month called the jury’s choice of Mo a “catas­tro­phe.”She also ac­cused Mo of pro­tect­ing the Asian coun­try’s cen­sor­ship laws.

China’s rulers for­bid op­po­si­tion par­ties and main­tain strict con­trol over all me­dia.

Mo said he doesn’t feel that cen­sor­ship should stand in the way of truth but that any defama­tion, or ru­mors, “should be cen­sored.”

“But I also hope that cen­sor­ship, per se, should have the high­est prin­ci­ple,” he said in com­ments trans­lated by an in­ter­preter from Chi­nese into English.

Mo is spend­ing sev­eral days in Stock­holm be­fore re­ceiv­ing his pres­ti­gious prize in an awards cer­e­mony Mon­day.

He won the No­bel for his sprawl­ing tales of life in ru­ral China. In its ci­ta­tion, the jury said Mo “with hal­lu­ci­na­tory re­al­ism merges folk tales, his­tory and the con­tem­po­rary.”

In ad­dress­ing the sen­si­tive is­sue of cen­sor­ship in China, Mo likened it to the thor­ough se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures he was sub­jected to as he trav­eled to Stock­holm.

“When I was tak­ing my flight, go­ing through the cus­toms … they also wanted to check me — even tak­ing off my belt and shoes,” he said. “But I think th­ese checks are nec­es­sary.”

Mo also dodged ques­tions about Liu, the jailed Peace Prize win­ner. Liu was sen­tenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for coau­thor­ing a bold call for end­ing China’s sin­gleparty rule and en­act­ing demo­cratic re­forms.

China’s re­cep­tion of the two No­bel lau­re­ates has been worlds apart.

While it re­jected the honor be­stowed on Liu, call­ing it a des­e­cra­tion of the No­bel tra­di­tion, it wel­comed Mo’s win with open arms, say­ing it re­flected “the pros­per­ity and progress of Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture, as well as the in­creas­ing in­flu­ence of China.”

Although Mo has pre­vi­ously said he hopes Liu will be freed soon, he re­fused to elab­o­rate more on the case.

“On the same evening of my win­ning the prize, I al­ready ex­pressed my opin­ion, and you can get on­line to make a search,” he said, telling the crowd that he hoped they wouldn’t press him on the sub­ject of Liu.

Some, how­ever, have in­ter­preted Mo’s Oc­to­ber com­ments as if he hoped the re­lease of Liu would make the jailed ac­tivist see sense and em­brace the Com­mu­nist Party line.

Ear­lier this week, an ap­peal signed by 134 No­bel lau­re­ates, from Peace Prize win­ners such as South African Arch­bishop Des­mond Tutu to Tai­wanese-Amer­i­can chemist Yuan T. Lee, called the de­ten­tion of Liu and his wife a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law and urged their im­me­di­ate re­lease.

Mo sug­gested he had no plans of adding his name to that pe­ti­tion.

JANERIK HEN­RIKS­SON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The 2012 No­bel lau­re­ate in lit­er­a­ture, Mo Yan of China, said Thurs­day in Stock­holm that he doesn’t feel that cen­sor­ship should stand in the way of truth but that any defama­tion or ru­mors ‘should be cen­sored.’ His re­ceipt of the award has drawn crit­i­cism. The awards cer­e­mony takes place in Stock­holm on Mon­day.

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