Friday, July 30, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: The Right to Write


Politicians are usually the target of untold numbers of unauthorized biography's. They are public figures and often have their lives open to critical interpretation; that is what comes with the territory. Not so in China. The top 8 law makers in the country that effectively govern the entire country are complete unknowns. Sure, brief bio's can be found online or in government controlled newspapers. They all went to University in China, they all studied in disciplines like engineering and political theory; they all seem common enough.

But who are China's leaders really? How did they come to power? Who helped them? Who made enemies along the way? What do their wives and children do? Do they have siblings? Little is actually known, and the Communist Party prefers it like that. So when an author tries to piece together the history of Wen Jiabao, the current Chinese Premier, to produce an unauthorized autobiography, one might expect trouble. And that's exactly what happened to Yu Jie.

Little is known about Wen Jiabao. His history, rise to Premier and family ties are murky; and yet he comes across in a carefully managed PR campaign as being a "Man of the People". Is that the truth? Can he be trusted? Can years of bitterness and writing in a threatening environment make Yu Jie a creditable source of information? Can any writer in China who lives under constant threat be objective?

The current system is so confused and it leaves everyone strained. Below is a New York Times article about Yu Jie's efforts to publish his unauthorized autobiography on Wen Jiabao.

Original LINK
Copyright: New York Times
Author Is Threatened Over Book on Chinese Premier
BEIJING — A best-selling Chinese author and democracy advocate detained by security agents on Monday said Tuesday that the agents threatened to imprison him if he proceeded with plans to publish a book criticizing Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister.

The author, Yu Jie, said in a telephone interview that he still intended to publish the book, titled “China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao,” by autumn. Because his books are banned in mainland China, Mr. Yu said, he is negotiating with a Hong Kong publisher.

Mr. Yu, 36, said he was questioned for four hours on Monday by police officers and agents of Beijing’s public security bureau who specialize in dealing with political dissidents. One security agent “told me that Wen Jiabao is not some ordinary guy,” he said, “and my criticism against him will be considered as harming state security and the national interest.”

“ ‘If you insist on publishing this book,’ ” he said he was told, “ ‘you will probably end up like Liu Xiaobo, who suffered imprisonment of many years.’ ” Mr. Liu, another writer and rights activist, was sentenced last December to 11 years in prison after leading a public movement calling for democratic reforms and an end to Communist Party rule.

Mr. Yu, who was released Monday after the interrogation, said that he was uncertain whether the agents’ threat was serious, but that he willing to go to prison for his principles.

“As a writer, I consider freedom of speech an essential part of my life,” he said. “Without it I will be a walking corpse, with no meaning and no value.”

Mr. Yu, who has written 28 books, once was a best-selling writer in mainland China, but his political views have led to the banning of his works. His new book’s “best actor” title draws on a nickname — a sly reference to the Academy Awards honor — that critics have bestowed on Mr. Wen.

A populist style and expressions of concern for China’s people have made Mr. Wen by far the best liked of China’s leaders, but Mr. Yu and other skeptics contend that the image only masks the authoritarian bent of China’s leadership.
Ryan Pyle

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