China has a very specific set of rules when it comes to what its people can and cannot say, especially about the government. Chinese censors comprise the most meticulous filtering system in the world, controlling just about everything its citizens say or write which is intended for public consumption.
The Internet has created a medium which, although Chinese censors exert some control over it, allows writers to get their works out to a wider audience than ever before. This subversion of the Chinese authorities is dangerous--just as medical marijuana users/producers in the United States risk federal arrest.
Except in China the punishment for dissident writers is often a decade or more in prison--if not worse.
Chinese writers regularly risk their freedom and their lives in an effort, not to bring down the Chinese government, but to elevate the thinking of the Chinese citizen. Their efforts are aimed squarely at the Chinese people, goading them into thinking for themselves; forcing them to look carefully at the world they live in and deciding whether or not they are satisfied with what they have.
In this way Chinese writers are among the bravest men and women in the world today. I hope they do not also become an endangered species.
Mr. Murong’s books are racy and violent and nihilistic, with tales of businessmen and officials engaging in bribe-taking, brawling, drinking, gambling and cavorting with prostitutes in China’s booming cities. He is a laureate of corruption, and his friends have introduced him at dinner parties as a writer of pornography.
That his books are published at all in China shows how the industry, once carefully controlled by the state, has become more market-driven.
But Mr. Murong’s prose inevitably runs up against censorship, which the Chinese Communist Party is intent on maintaining despite the publishing industry’s gradual changes. Mr. Murong says he is a “word criminal” in the eyes of the state, and a “coward” in his own eyes for engaging in self-censorship. His growing frustrations have pushed him to become one of the most vocal critics of censorship in China. After zipping his mouth in Beijing last November, he delivered his banned speech three months later in Hong Kong. He also discussed the issue last weekend in New York at the Asia Society.
Click here to read more about Murong Xuecun.