News / Asia

China's Nobel Literature Winner Defends State Censorship

Mo Yan, Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, demonstrates Chinese calligraphy to a student during a visit to a high school in Lidingo, outside Stockholm, Dec. 7, 2012.
Mo Yan, Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, demonstrates Chinese calligraphy to a student during a visit to a high school in Lidingo, outside Stockholm, Dec. 7, 2012.
VOA News
Chinese author Mo Yan, who has been criticized for his links to the country's Communist leaders, defended state censorship and avoided discussing human rights issues as he prepared to accept the Nobel prize in literature.

A visibly uncomfortable Mo, whose pen name means "don't speak," told reporters at a press conference in Stockholm on Thursday that censorship is sometimes necessary, comparing it to airport security checks.

"I've never given any compliments to the system of censorship, but I also believe that censorship exists in every country of the world," he said. "The only difference is the degree and way in which censorship happens."

The 57-year-old author, who will receive the Nobel prize Monday, suggested he would not sign a petition by 134 fellow Nobel laureates calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner serving an 11-year prison term for inciting subversion.

Mo, who is reluctant to speak against Chinese leaders, surprised his critics in October when he said he hoped Liu could achieve his freedom as soon as possible. But on Thursday, he refused to support Liu again, saying he had already issued his opinion on the matter.

"I have always been independent," he said. "I like it that way. When somebody forces me to do something, I will never do it. When I want to speak, I will speak. When I am forced to express my opinion, I will not do it.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based human rights analyst, said in an interview with VOA that is difficult to tell Mo's stance on Beijing's political repression of dissidents and artists.

"Many people interpreted [Mo's remarks] as sympathetic, as saying he wished [Liu] could be released from prison," said Rosenzweig. "But others have interpreted that as he wished that Liu Xiaobo would not criticize the government and would repent of his actions and therefore be released by the government."

Rosenzweig also questioned Mo's comparison of state censorship policies to those meant to protect against terrorism.

"Censorship in China is designed primarily to protect the state from being criticized, whereas we get patted down on an airplane to protect us all from acts of terrorism or other dangers," he said. "The 'danger' here that the security laws and censorship laws in China are designed to prevent are dangers to the political regime, rather than danger to individuals."

Several Chinese dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei and activist Hu Jia, have said that Mo is unworthy of winning the prestigious Nobel literature prize because of his political affiliations and reluctance to speak on human rights.

Mo, who was accompanied on the trip to Sweden by a Chinese government official, told reporters that he received the prize because of his literary works, not for his politics.

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Comment Sorting
by: ChasL from: Seattle, WA
December 10, 2012 2:58 AM
Wow, this coming from VOA, a well known state sponsored propaganda outlet that routinely espouses position on behalf of US government?

Everything VOA says by definition is censored, how ironic.

by: Anonymous
December 08, 2012 7:31 AM
The country isn't equal to the nation.I don't think the PRC will last a long time, but the Chinese will.

by: Guillermo Pussetto from: Montreal
December 07, 2012 10:16 PM
The last thing I would have expected from the Nobel organization is giving the prize to a minor writer who supports censorship and looks away from human rights. For me, this is the lowest point in the history of the Nobel prize organization.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 08, 2012 12:13 AM
Guillermo Pussetto from: Montreal, you are just another brain washed ignorant. Do you ever read? Did you read Mo Yan's novels?
How much do you know about China?
Let me ask you, in China's airport you dont need to take off your shoes, but in US you are forced to do it. So can I criticize US for violating human rights? yes you have thousands reasons to justify why they do it in US just like China has thousand reason to justify their decision.
again, keep your ugly politics with yourself, leave Nobel literature prize alone!
In Response

by: WEI from: china
December 07, 2012 11:49 PM
i tell you, there is also censorship in VAO!!!! I reply you but my comments was no appear
In Response

by: wei from: china
December 07, 2012 11:10 PM
i don't agree with you, actually in china any person can judge governments on the net. but you don't know the truth.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 07, 2012 1:12 PM
nice said:"he received the prize because of his literary works, not for his politics".
can we keep the ugly politics away from prestigious Nobel price?
In Response

by: John from: USA
December 07, 2012 2:07 PM
The "prestigious" Nobel prize has always been about politics. Don't flatter that pathetic institution. They refused the Nobel in Literature to the Joyce and Borges on political grounds.

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
December 07, 2012 10:22 AM
Mo Yan makes a ridiculouse analogy of censorship to airport security. Free speech is not the same thing as airline safety. People do not have a right to travel on an airplane w/o being searched. People do have an inalienable right to free speech. The Govt cannot censor speech & when they do, it's usually to for political reasons to protect their power. Mo Yan's work was not censored by China, but if it had been like so many other Chinese writers, I doubt he'd be such a supporter of govt censorship.
In Response

by: henryyeung from: davis
December 07, 2012 1:32 PM
do you know the saying "the frog at the bottom of the well", first, you have to understand that government security is related to individual security. secondly, a person with high quality has a peaceful heart, do not like to judge who is right and wrong, to some degree, wrong and right is the standard which is thought by the smart people to cheat stupid people. Mo is a real people with high quality. you judge him because you are low and you do
not have the ability to understand him.

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