Mo Yan's silence on Liu Xiaobo angers

2012-12-07 10:45
The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Mo Yan of China reacts during a press conference of the 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate in Stockholm. (Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP)

The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Mo Yan of China reacts during a press conference of the 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate in Stockholm. (Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP)

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Beijing - Critics reacted with anger on Friday after Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan brushed off concerns over censorship and refused to comment on jailed writer Liu Xiaobo.

"I am very angry about Mo Yan's remarks," exiled writer Yu Jie told dpa.

Yu said Mo had "publicly defended the Communist Party's censorship, just like German writers lavishing praise on Hitler and Goebbels".

"Mo Yan won the Nobel literature prize, but he is still a lackey," said Yu, who left China for the United States in January after complaining of house arrest, illegal detention and torture.

"Any Chinese intellectual with conscience won't have good feelings or respect for him," Yu said.

Artist and dissident Ai Weiwei said Mo was "defending the evil system" of censorship in China.

Victory for mediocrity

"As a policy, it is evil," Ai said. "[They] put many writers and artists in jail or threaten them with that."

"As a Nobel laureate, defending such a system... I think that's unimaginable," Ai said.

Patrick Poon, the head of the Hong Kong office of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre writers' group, said he was "very disappointed" by Mo's remarks in Stockholm on Thursday.

"I think all of us should ask ourselves why such a writer deserves the top literary prize in the world," Poon said.

"A writer receiving the Nobel prize is respected not just because of his or her writing skills but also because of his or her views on freedom of expression, which is fundamental to writers, and universal values, such as human rights," Poon said.

Ai said Mo's win was a "victory for mediocrity and political corruption", criticising the Nobel committee for making the award.

Deliberately ambiguous

"I think it's no surprise that people like Mo Yan exist," he said. "There are such people in China, in North Korea."

"But as a prize from the so-called free world, awarding the prize to such a person is a huge corruption," Ai said. "I think it's a horrific incident for literature."

When asked on Thursday about Liu, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, Mo said he had already commented in October and would not be "forced to express my opinion" again.

After Mo's prize was announced in October, Mo said he hoped Liu could "gain his freedom as soon as possible", but some dissidents saw that statement as deliberately ambiguous.

Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for his part in writing the Charter '08 for democratic reform.

On Thursday, Mo told reporters that his prize was "a victory for literature but not a victory for politics".

Clothes controversy

Asked about censorship, he said he "never has praised the system of censorship, but I believe that in every country in the world censorship exists".

"The only difference is in the degree and way of censorship," Mo said.

"Mo Yan's blind faith in public power and his ignorance of private power astonish people," Ran Yunfei, a dissident writer in the south-western city of Chengdu, said on Twitter.

State media gave extensive coverage to Mo's trip to Sweden for the award, but state television did not broadcast Thursday's press conference live.

Many reports focussed on what the official China Daily newspaper called the "highly controversial issue" of Mo's clothes, debating which of several Western and Chinese-style outfits he should wear for Nobel events.

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