Authorities in the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region have banned the sale of books by an ethnic Uyghur who served as the region’s first chairman, reports Radio Free Asia (Ban):
Observers said the ban — part of an internal party order issued in April last year, but only recently learned of by RFA’s Uyghur Service — highlights the Chinese government’s mistrust of Uyghurs, regardless of their professed loyalty to the party and state, and suggests an official effort is underway to “erase” Uyghur history from the region and the collective national conscience.
Books by the late Seypidin Aziz, including “A Collection of Poetry,” his memoir “The Epics of Life,” and a biographic memoir of Abdulkeri Abbasof “The Eagle of Tengritagh,” have been removed from bookstores in Urumqi following a “special directive” by authorities, sources at several shops in the Xinjiang capital recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service, although they were unable to explain the reason for the ban.
The directive came despite years of service to the Communist Party by Azizi, who served as the first chairman of Xinjiang from 1955-1978 and as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee from 1993-1998 before his death in 2003.
I have not read any of Seypidin Aziz’s writing. But one scholar based outside the PRC had this to say about him:
“He is widely regarded by Uyghurs as the first and last Uyghur politician to hold real power in the CCP . . . My sense is that he is now being recast as a Uyghur nationalist/separatist because of the way he pushed back against power and fought for minority rights.”
For more information on Seypidin Aziz (aka Saifuddin Azizi, 赛福鼎·艾则孜, سەيپىدىن ئەزىزى), see: His biography on Wikipedia in English; several Chinese editions of his books on Douban; and a YouTube video (narrated in Uyghur with Chinese subtitles) about his early life, politics and crucial role in the establishment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Geremie Barmé takes a look at the recent decision of Cambridge University Press to reinstate content deleted from the online version of its China Quarterly available in China:
Chinese censorship has come a long way.
During his rule in the second century B.C.E., the First Emperor 秦始皇 of a unified China, Ying Zheng 嬴政, famously quashed the intellectual diversity of his day by ‘burning the books and burying the scholars’ 焚書坑儒. He not only got rid of troublesome texts, he deleted their authors and potential readers as well.
Click here for the full essay.
The Hürriyet Daily News English edition reports:
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.”
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.
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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‘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.