Hundreds of Turkish Journalists in Jail or on the Run

The Hürriyet Daily News English edition reports:

Exiled in Germany: Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhurriyet. An arrest warrant in absentia was issued in Turkey for him on 31 October 2016.

Some 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 of them were in jail as of the end of April, according to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC). 


The Freedom of Expression and Press report, which was made possible by the European Union, said 46 new investigations were launched and 20 additional cases were filed against journalists in the first four months of 2017, [Turkish-language] daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.

“In the past four months, Turkey continued to be the world leader with the number of journalists in jail,” the report said, adding that in nearly all of the cases regarding journalists, demands for trial without arrest had been rejected.”

 

Behind the Bamboo Curtain: At Last the World Is Paying Attention to How Foreign Works Are Translated into Chinese

Feng Tang's controversial rendition of Tagore's "Stray Birds" has ignited controversy both in Chinese and Indian literary circles

Feng Tang’s controversial rendition of Tagore’s “Stray Birds” has ignited controversy in both Chinese and Indian literary circles

Jan 12 Update: Indiatoday’s Interview with Feng Tang

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January 7 Post

Feng Tang, a well known Chinese author — and occasional translator — will reportedly not be among a group of Chinese writers attending the World Book Fair in New Delhi next week (Jan 9-17). He had previously been scheduled to take part. It is not perfectly clear from the report below if he decided to withdraw on his own, or if he was pressured to do so. Reports the online hindustantimes (‘Racy’ Tagore Translation):

Feng Tang, one of China’s most provocative authors, has been pulled out of a delegation of writers slated to participate in a New Delhi book fair next week because of the backlash over his translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems that was deemed vulgar and racy.

The translation of “Stray Birds”, a collection of poems by the Nobel laureate, was published early last year but the controversy erupted last month. One author described it as a “cultural terrorist attack” and the translation was pulled off the shelves by the publisher on December 28.

“It would be unsafe for me in New Delhi, is what my publisher told me in as many words,” Feng told Hindustan Times in Beijing on Wednesday.

He was among nine Chinese authors set to take part in the book fair, and was to speak on Tagore’s contribution to Chinese literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University on January 9.

For bilingual versions of several of Tagore’s poems, and a discussion of the issues raised by Feng Tang’s renditions, see the discussion at Paper Republic: Don’t Touch My Tagore! 

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget an excerpt from one of Feng Tang’s Beijing-based novels that I did several years ago. You can read my rendition here

Family Planning in Fiction, Rejigging Censorship and Xi Jinping’s Literary Tastes

The Guardian’s Tom Phillips in Beijing reports that Xi Jinping’s foray into literary criticism is beginning to have some very concrete manifestations in the world of Chinese popular fiction:

It was the scrawl of red ink snaking around paragraphs that told novelist Sheng Keyi how much things had changed. Just over a decade ago, Sheng’s best-selling breakthrough novel, Northern Girls (北妹), was published uncensored in mainland China to critical acclaim.

But last month, as editors prepared to launch a third edition of the book, the author was informed that parts of her text were no longer publishable.

“It is ridiculous,” Sheng complained, pointing to an editors’ manuscript on which a red ballpoint pen had been used to highlight sections that now needed excising. “It doesn’t feel like something that could happen in real life and it makes me quite angry.”

Sheng, 42, is clear about why parts of her once-celebrated novel have suddenly become taboo. The blame, she believes, lies with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whose reign, which completes three years on Sunday, has brought a political chill of the kind not felt in decades.

Sipping a glass of carrot juice at a café near her Beijing home, Sheng lamented the toll Xi’s tenure was taking on contemporary Chinese literature. “Personally, I feel depressed,” she said 

Communist party spin doctors have sought to portray Xi not only as an unassailable strongman but also as a bookish man of letters. From Byron to Balzac, Walt Whitman to La Fontaine, China’s bibliophile leader has repeatedly used overseas speeches to show off the depth of his literary knowledge.

In Russia, Xi boasted of having read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gogol; in France, he reached for Flaubert, Stendhal and Molière.

For the full interview with Sheng Keyi (盛可以) — including translations of the censored passages, one about a forced abortion and the other about a “permanent solution” to a couple’s reproductive functions — visit Publishers under Pressure.

See also: Madame Xi Jinping’s role in the Revival of the White-Haired Girl, and Xi Jinping’s “Little Red Book” for Art Workers of the Nation.

NYT on Revival of “The White-Haired Girl”: Chinese Version Deletes Madame Mao & Erstwhile Starring Role of Mrs. Xi Jinping

"The White-Haired Girl" is back: But can she compete with the likes of Taylor Swift?

“The White-Haired Girl” is back: But can she compete with the likes of Taylor Swift?

Back in October 2014 when Xi Jinping delivered his closed-door speech to a gathering of the nation’s artists and scribes in Beijing — essentially a souped-up, 21st-century rendition of Mao Zedong’s infamous pronouncements at the 1942 Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art — many wondered just what it signified. It took one year, but the speech was recently released to the public in full (see Xi Jinping’s ‘Little Red Book’ for Art Workers of the Nation).

To quote briefly from it:

“Our modern art and literature needs to take patriotism as its muse, guiding the people to establish and adhere to correct views of history, the nation, the country and culture.”

I think you get the picture.

On November 10, Chris Buckley at the New York Times ran a piece on the revival of a Culture Revolutionary model opera, ‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created Under Mao, Returns to Stage. Apparently it is time for an updated version of this Mao-era classic too, and you might be surprised to learn that Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛), who just happens to be Xi Jinping’s wife, is serving as its artistic director.

In fact, Madame Xi played the starring role on stage in the 1980s version. But readers of the Chinese won’t learn about that in the Cankao Xiaoxi translation of the NYT article that came out just two days later (新版《白毛女》), nor will they be reminded — though Buckley reminded us in English — of the key role that Jiang Qing played in overseeing ballet adaptations of certain operas. This paragraph, for instance, has been expunged from the Chinese version of Buckley’s article:

For some Chinese, the entanglement of a party leader and his spouse in determining artistic values through a “model opera” is likely to bring disquieting echoes of the past.

One other thing worthy of mention here is how several quote marks in the original have been deleted in Chinese. I’ve been reading Cankao Xiaoxi for several years, and I can’t recall when I last saw that sort of deletion; quoted comments are often deleted outright, but rendering direct speech indirectly — albeit commonplace in China’s media — is not generally done in this publication. So I can only assume that the content of this article is considered rather sensitive.

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- (weekends, holidays) or standard 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

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[New Version of “White-Haired Girl” Returns to China’s Stage]

Original headline:  ‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created under Mao, Returns to Stage

 By Chris Buckley, [US-based New York Times report,] November 10, 2015

Mao Zedong was said to have been moved to tears when he watched an early performance of “The White-Haired Girl,” an opera created to meet his call for rousing revolutionary art. [Today it has returned to the stage.] And under President Xi Jinping, a revival is on the road, reinvented once more to appeal to a Communist Party leader’s stringently ideological tastes. [Read more…]

Matrilineal Mosuo Cultural Decline: Allure of Modernization, Impact of Tourism and Conveniently Customized History

In the 1950s, many of China’s policies towards its ethnic minorities were inspired by those of the Soviet Union. In the northeast near the Sino-Russian border, for instance, the Oroqen (鄂伦春) found their animistic faith banned and their shamans forced to burn their sacred attire and renounce their “spirit dances” (Last Shaman). Many peoples like the Evenki (鄂温克) were forced to hand ownership of their livestock to the state and form politically correct “people’s communes” or the like. Never mind that the reindeer-herding Evenki, who speak a language related to Manchu and resided deep within the Greater Khingan mountains where they had little contact with the Han, had been living a collective lifestyle for centuries without any guidance from Marxist cadres, Russian or Chinese.

Things got even uglier for many minority ethnicities during the Cultural Revolution, when many customs of minority groups were seen as backward, even dangerous superstition that needed to be annihilated.

Inconveniently, these policies and actions do not fit the current narrative of the government — that relations among all 56 officially recognized peoples of the PRC have been and are quite harmonious, thank you — and they are therefore rarely cited or discussed in Chinese media. When they occur in news items written in the West and translated for consumption in China, they must be judiciously packaged.

In the case of ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ in China Draws Tourists to Its Matrilineal Society published recently in the New York Times, and subsequently translated and published in Cankao Xiaoxi (女儿国), this has meant deleting just about all the text (near the end of the original article) that implies that the decline of Mosuo traditions is partly due to 1) Infrastructure projects that are feeding the Lugu Lake tourism boom, and/or 2) Earlier government policies that stigmatized the Mosuo’s “backward marriage customs” and forced the Mosuo to practice “one husband, one wife.”

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- (weekends, holidays) or standard 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

 

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LUGU LAKE JOURNAL

‘Kingdom of Daughters’ in China Draws Tourists to Its Matrilineal Society

[Lugu Lake’s Culture of ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ Under Threat]

By AMY QIN October 26, 2015 [US-based New York Times web site. Original headline: China’s ‘Kingdom of Daughters’ Draws Tourists to Visit Matrilineal Society (Dispatch by reporter Amy Qin from Lugu Lake, China) ]

LUGU LAKE, China — A young man clad in a white shirt, black pants and red belt suddenly scrambled up the side of a log house and slid feet first into a second-story latticed window.

“This is how Mosuo men would climb into the `flower room’ of the women,” Ke Mu explained to visitors [just] as the triumphant swain [gleeful suitor] stuck his head out the window of the flower room, or private bedroom, and waved his hat.

It was morning in the lakeside village of Luoshui here in southwestern China. On a narrow side street, dusty from hotel construction nearby, a group of young [Chinese] workers, including Ke, 18, was preparing for another day of cultural pageantry at the Mosuo Folk Museum.

Their task [job] is to showcase the traditions of the Mosuo, a minority ethnic group said to be the country’s last matrilineal society, where children take their mothers’ surnames and daughters are preferred to sons.

A fascination with such traditions has led to a booming  [prosperous] tourism industry in this once-isolated region.

Lured by the promise of spectacular natural beauty and exotic  [unique] cultural experiences, hundreds of thousands [large bevies] of visitors , mostly Chinese, are making the journey to Lugu Lake , nestled on a plateau in the mountains between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Those numbers are expected to rise with the opening of a local airport this month and later an expressway connecting Lugu Lake to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.

In response, a number of family-run hotels have popped up along the lake’s pristine blue waters. Visitors can watch residents perform traditional dances in colorful costumes and can take boat rides on the lake as young Mosuo men serenade them with love songs in Naru, the Mosuo language. [Read more…]

China’s Online Courses for the World: Tweaking International Media Coverage for Chinese Eyes

 

On Oct 21, the New York Times ran an interesting article entitled China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power.  Sure enough, Xinhua’s Cankao Xiaoxi picked it up and translated it for the masses just two days later, with an enhanced title that focuses on capturing foreign eyeballs (中文原文):

中国借网络课程吸引外国受众

Cankao Xiaoxi is a respected and influential Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history, and in many newsstands across the mainland the 8- or 16-page edition — black-and-white, almost no graphics, on cheap paper that smudges easily over breakfast — sells out every day before noon. Virtually no English is used and little content is added to the text proper. Packaging elements like headlines, sub-heads and captions, however, are totally refurbished, and references deemed unbecoming to China’s image are often “airbrushed.”

As usual in my pieces on Cankao Xiaoxi, I run the original English copy immediately below. For the benefit of English speakers who cannot read the Chinese version, I cross out the specific words that were deleted when the article was translated, and indicate any added copy (normally just for readability’s sake) by putting it [in brackets]. This way one can see just how Cankao’s editors “re-package” foreign copy for domestic consumption.

 

China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power

[China Making Use of Online Courses to Attract Foreign Audiences]

By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ [US New York Times online ] Oct. 21, 2015 [report] [Original headline: China Using Online Courses and Mao Zedong Thought to Promote Soft Power] [(Reporter Hernandez’s Hong Kong dispatch)]

HONG KONG — Karla Cabrera, a 29-year-old lawyer in Mexico City, was excited when she came across “Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought,” an online course about the Chinese revolutionary leader. She has a passion for Chinese history, and she hoped the class would shed light on the brutal political battles that took place under Mao’s rule.

But when Ms. Cabrera began watching the lectures on edX, a popular online education platform owned and administered by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was disappointed.

Each class opened with a patriotic video montage. Talk of Mao’s errors was minimal, restricted to the Communist Party line. The professor, a faculty member at Tsinghua, one of China’s most prestigious universities, seemed eager to mimic Mao himself, dressing in a tunic suit and referring to Maoism as a “magic bullet” for the party.

“It was like watching propaganda,” Ms. Cabrera said in a telephone interview. “They just told you what they wanted you to know.”

As China seeks to extend its global clout [influence], it has gone to great lengths [made an effort] in recent years to promote its culture and values abroad, building vast media operations overseas and opening hundreds of language and cultural outposts [centers].

Now it is turning  [getting help from] to a new tool: online education, a rapidly growing industry that promises access to  [to attract] millions of students and the endorsement of some of the world’s most renowned institutions. [Read more…]

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: China’s Culture of Censorship in the Limelight

Oct 17 Update

纽约时报中文网:美国 12 家出版商集体对中国审查说不

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Oct 16 2015

In Phil Collins and Ai Weiwei Make Waves at Frankfurt Book Fair, we learn that China’s repugnant censorship practices are generating some real pushback:

The fair also saw China accepted as the newest member of the International Publishers Association – a move that was swiftly followed by the announcement of a new pledge from Pen American Center. Signed by 12 US publishers, it is intended to address censorship in Chinese translations of books by foreign authors.

The pledge (PDF) says that many authors are unaware cuts are made to their work to comply with the Chinese government’s censorship regime, pointing to Andrew Solomon, who only discovered that sections from his book The Noonday Demon, a study of depression which includes details of his life as a gay man, had been cut from the Chinese edition after Pen compared the two versions years after its release.

The 12 publishers, which include Hachette, Macmillan and Penguin Random House, pledged to “require that any cuts or changes to the text must be approved by the author”, and to “work only with trusted Chinese publishing partners who will communicate openly regarding censorship issues”.

See also Pro-active Guide for Foreign Scribes: How to Deal with Censorship of Your Writing in Xi Dada’s China for a summary of Pen America’s damning report released in May 2015, Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship.

Pro-active Guide for Foreign Scribes: How to Deal with Censorship of Your Writing in Xi Dada’s China

Foreign authors entering China Zone: To ensure "faithful" translation, best hire a bilingual third-party to vet your China publisher's "rendition"

Foreign authors entering China Zone: To ensure full and faithful translation, best hire a bilingual third-party to vet your China publisher’s “rendition” before publication

In a global world where the printed book resembles a species under threat, China’s publishing industry is a striking exception. Total revenues exceeded US$16 billion in 2012, and annual growth averages 10 percent. And in that same year, Chinese publishers acquired 16,115 foreign titles.

Authors worldwide naturally want to break into this potentially lucrative market. There’s just one catch: the book you wrote may not be the same one they publish in China. The culprit: your China publisher’s in-house editor-cum-censor.

“Books that deal directly and heavily with politically sensitive topics such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Tibet and Taiwan are almost inevitably censored, but works of poetry, fiction, memoir and even self-help texts are not safe from the editor’s scalpel in China,” advises Pen America’s newly released Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship.

I’ve actually been documenting censorship in China for over 5 years now on this blog. Some of the most popular posts:

  • China even censors foreign book reviews of novels written by its own writers. See a review of Yu Hua’s Brothers for an easy-to-follow, real life example.
  • More predictably — and at least as fun — is what happens to brazen foreign news reports about the unspeakable in China. See Just Say “No” to Orgasms.
  •  我是马拉拉 (I Am Malala) appeared one year earlier in Taiwan than mainland China. Guess why?

But back to the free report from Pen America, which makes great reading for several reasons. For one thing, it opens the lid widely on what is, for most people outside the Middle Kingdom, the black box of Chinese censorship. Foreign authors, agents and publishers who coyly claim “But I didn’t know!” henceforth have no such excuse. And the 25-page report is well researched, citing a host of Chinese and overseas publishers, agents and writers. Most are identified in full, but unfortunately, several of the Chinese authors seem to have requested anonymity.

And best of all, the report closes with Recommendations, a series of practical, bulleted steps to ensure that you negotiate the best deal possible for your “published-in-China” book, including the ultimate weapon of conscience — simply refusing to publish it in censored format.

A few highlights of the report: [Read more…]

Quote of the Week: Human Rights Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang Uses Taboo “C” Word about Xinjiang

“If you say Xinjiang belongs to China, then don’t treat it as a colony,” Mr. Pu wrote in May 2014. “Don’t act as conquerors and plunderers, striking out against any and all before and after, turning them into the enemy.”

浦志强在 2014 年 5 月时曾写道,“说新疆是中国的,就别把它当殖民地说新疆是中国的,别当征服者和掠夺者,先发制人后发制人都为制人,都是把对方当敌人。”

(Tweet by Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), a human rights lawyer now facing charges of “incitement to racial hatred,” and “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Cited in NYT article on May 15, 2015, Chinese Rights Lawyer Detained in 2014 Will Stand Trial)

 

Peter Hessler on the China Translator and “Defensive Censorship”

In Travels with My Censor: A Book Tour, author Peter Hessler decides the best way to understand censorship in China is to spend some quality time with the humans — they aren’t machines or faceless apparatchiks — who practice it. Very educational for him and us, I’d say. This piece in The New Yorker also leaves me feeling he is more attuned to life in China than Evan Osnos, who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (Censorship Percentage Stats) explaining why he refused to have his Age of Ambition translated, censored and published in China. Below, Hessler explains how censorship works at a book publisher:

At Shanghai Translation, each manuscript passes through three levels of political review: the editor, his supervisor, and the head of the company. Occasionally, the higher levels make a change, but the vast majority of censorship is handled by editors like Zhang. In 2013, when the Times ran an article about foreign authors publishing in China, it noted that “publishing houses are required to employ in-house censors, most of them faithful party members.”

But this isn’t accurate. At Shanghai Translation, there’s no employee whose primary job is to monitor political content. Such a distinction may seem academic, but it matters greatly in a country with many types of political control. In China, newspapers and magazines are censored much more heavily than books, and state-run papers like China Daily actively promote the Party line. On the Internet, censors excise all references to certain taboo topics.

But for an editor like Zhang, who is not a Party member, there is no ideology and no absolute list of banned subjects. His censorship is defensive: rather than promoting an agenda or covering up some specific truth, he tries to avoid catching the eye of a higher authority. In fact, his goal — to have a book translated and published as accurately as possible — may run counter to the goals of the Party.