China’s Nobel Pair: ‘Speak’ and ‘Shut Up’

by Jillian Kay Melchior

While Chinese Communist Party member Mo Yan used his Nobel Literature Prize to expound on the merits of censorship today, another winner languished in a state prison.

Mo is undoubtedly a talented writer. But he’s also a cadre, the vice-president of Beijing’s National Writers Association. Speaking at a news conference in Stockholm today, Mo followed the Party line:  

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. . . .

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.”

That very censor’s mentality has driven the persecution against Liu Xiabo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and co-author of Charter ’08, a manifesto calling for democracy in China. Beijing sentenced Liu to eleven years in prison. The Chinese government also went after Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, keeping her under house arrest in Beijing. That’s taking a toll on her, according to reporters who recently sneaked in to visit her. The Associated Press reports:

Stunned that reporters were able to visit her, Liu Xia trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how absurd and emotionally draining her confinement under house arrest has been in the two years since her jailed activist husband, Liu Xiaobo, was named a Nobel Peace laureate. 

. . .

 Liu said she has been confined to her duplex apartment in downtown Beijing with no Internet or outside phone line and is only allowed weekly trips to buy groceries and visit her parents.

“We live in such an absurd place,” she said. “It is so absurd. I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize. But after he won the prize, I really never imagined that after he won, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this.”

When Mo won the Nobel prize, he briefly expressed his hope that Liu Xiaobo would be released early. But he declined to repeat himself this week, telling reporters that “on the same evening of my winning the prize, I already expressed my opinion, and you can get online to make a search.”

On an ironic note, “Mo Yan” literally translates to “Don’t Speak” or “Shut Up.” Meanwhile, Liu shows us by example what Beijing will do to those who dare voice their dissent.

The Corner

The one and only.