May 15, 2014

Chinese publisher of dissident literature sentenced to ten years for ‘smuggling’


Goddamnit, Xi.

Goddamnit, Xi.

Goddamnit, China.

Earlier this month I wrote that I’d like to see more nuance in our discussions of Chinese publishing, something beyond the tired stories of censorship, juxtaposed with stories about the naivete or inscrutability of Chinese literature. I called news of the regime’s censorship and repression of authors necessary, but lamented that it isn’t leavened in English language coverage with more of the pedestrian but fascinating (to me) industry stories we see about publishing here in the states.

It’s a proposition that might be easier to fulfill if China could maybe stop brutally repressing its authors and publishers for all of a single week, goddamn it.

Word reaches us from PEN International that on May 7th Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian was sentenced to ten years in prison for the crime of ‘smuggling prohibited items.’ As we discussed back in January, Yao is a publisher of many dissident authors including, at the time of his arrest in October, a planned book criticizing Xi Jinping by Yu Jie.  Most commenters agree that his arrest charges are entirely manufactured to serve political ends. Yao is seventy-three and in very poor health—much of his time while awaiting trial has been spent in a medical detention center A ten year prison term amounts to a death sentence for this man, all because he dared to publish books critical of the regime.

Hey, who wants to hear more lighthearted jokes about Mo Yan’s royalties? Maybe another thing comparing their authors to Franzen? No? Nobody. No, me either. Goddamnit, China.

PEN has a list of ways you can write to asking for clemency for Yao Wentian here.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.