Mo Yan Speaks Out For Jailed Dissident And Fellow Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

A lot of people have expressed their desire to see newly crowned Nobel laureate Mo Yan speak out against the more grievous shortcomings of the Chinese government. The extent to which he leverages his publicity to enact change will ultimately be up to him, but if his most recent quote — just a day after winning the most prestigious award in the world — is any indication, he might be off to a good (and surprising) start. As reported by Reuters:

Chinese Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan said on Friday he hoped jailed compatriot Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, would be freed soon.

“I hope he can achieve his freedom as soon as possible,” Mo told reporters in his hometown of Gaomi in the northern province of Shandong.

Liu has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2009 for subversion of state power. The government would rather pretend he — and to a lesser extent, 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Gao Xingjian — did not exist. Even if Mo Yan never bluntly criticizes the government, at least he’s doing the next best thing: restoring the people’s memory of these banished notables of contemporary China.

It’ll be difficult, of course. Will his newfound fame empower him, or will it force him to be more cautious, now that dozens if not hundreds of Party cadres will seek to wine and dine him and steer him toward the official line?

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, writing in the NY Times’s Rendezvous blog, gives us a glimpse at exactly how much pressure is on Mo. (Perhaps this is why he said he was “scared” when he found out he won.) Tatlow revisited a speech that Mo gave at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, attended by none other than vice president Xi Jinping.

Later that year, in an interview with China Newsweek magazine (which can be read here, in Chinese, on the China News site), Mr. Mo responded to critics who said he had toed the state line too closely at Frankfurt, where he walked out of a literary symposium, along with Chinese officials, to protest the presence of two dissident writers, Dai Qing and Bei Ling, creating a storm of controversy that would dog the fair: “I had no choice,” he said.

“A lot of people are now saying about me, ‘Mo Yan is a state writer.’ It’s true, insofar as like the authors Yu Hua and Su Tong, I get a salary” from the “Ministry of Culture, and get my social and health insurance from them too,” he said.

“That’s the reality in China. Overseas, people all have their own insurance, but without a position, I can’t afford to get sick in China,” he said.

He can afford to get sick now — or, to extend the metaphor, at least wear less cumbersome clothing in this frosty and pathogen-plagued environment. Perhaps that’s the best thing the Nobel Committee did by awarding this year’s literature prize to a non-dissident, someone whom Peter Englund of the Swedish Academy said was “more a critic of the system, sitting within the system.” They’ve given him a chance to bust out.

And look: he’s already changing minds:

4 Responses to “Mo Yan Speaks Out For Jailed Dissident And Fellow Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo”

  1. krondorian

    莫言談獲諾獎感受(中新社)

    諾貝爾文學獎得主莫言表示,希望諾貝爾和平獎得主劉曉波能夠盡早獲得自由。
    莫言下午在家鄉山東高密召開記者會,被記者問到對劉曉波的看法。莫言表示,在80年
    代曾看過劉曉波的評論文章,指他的作品《紅高梁》若以長篇小說方式一次過推出來,
    不是分開一篇篇推出,會產生石破天驚的效果,莫言表示,很認同他的說法,亦很後悔
    當初沒有一下子寫一個長篇推出。

    莫言表示,劉曉波後來參與政治後,雙方沒有交往,對他後來的活動不了解。他說,希
    望劉曉波能夠盡早健康地獲得自由。

    Reply

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