Media regulation

GAPP: books criticized, but not banned

GAPP has responded to reports that it banned eight books in January. Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao quotes a representative of the Administration's Department of Books and Publishing:

The issue of banning is nonexistent; this time we have not banned a single book.

The source, whom Zaobao does not name, said that the 11 January meeting between GAPP officials and representatives of publishers was convened to remind publishers of the need to respect the law. Nine publishing houses were criticized during the meeting for violations ranging from "dealing in book registration numbers, abusing the 'Eleventh Five-Year Plan Key Publishing Project,' failing to file with the authorities prior to publication, and publishing harmful content."

The representative said that there was no so-called "eight banned books" situation. However, five books were indeed subject to criticism at the meeting, including The Family History of an Ordinary Chinese because readers complained that it whitewashed the Japanese invasion force. Hunan Literature and Arts Press was also criticized at the meeting for publishing Past Stories of Actors.

The representative repeated GAPP deputy-director Wu Shulin's words to the meeting: "How and what an author writes is part of a writer's creative freedom. We don't scrap people because of books, or scrap books because of people; however, publishers should respect the country's legal stipulations regarding publishing.

Wu Shulin was earlier quoted as saying to Hunan Literature and Arts Press, "How dare you publish the book by this writer" in reference to Zhang Yihe.

Zaobao also reported on Zhang Yihe's reaction to GAPP's clarifications. While Zhang herself will reportedly issue a formal statement at some more opportune time in the future, her representative, the lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, spoke to the paper:

"GAPP finally coming forward to speak deserves to be welcomed. However, our dissatisfaction is with the self-contradictory language of the clarification; there is a lack of detail in some places."

Pu Zhiqiang pointed out that GAPP had not said why Hunan Literature and Arts Press, publisher of Past Stories of Actors, had been criticized. He said, "In any society under the rule of law, respect for freedom of the press is guaranteed under freedom of speech; you cannot say that authors are permitted the freedom to create but are not permitted to publish freely."

He said that freedom of the press is a public right guaranteed by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China; in targeting publishers GAPP is violating the constitution.

Pu Zhiqiang said that the continued availability of Past Stories of Actors in Beijing does not mean that the authorities have not banned the book. He said, "A book continuing to be sold and whether a book has been banned are two distinct concepts; they are not equivalent."

Pu Zhiqiang said that they had evidence demonstrating that Past Stories of Actors could not be reprinted; this is one form of banning. GAPP has a history of banning books; the honesty of their denial of banning any books in this instance is suspect.

He said that Zhang Yihe hopes that GAPP deputy-director Wu Shulin can personally explain whether he spoke about "scrapping the book because of the person": "I believe there is a discrepancy between GAPP's statement and the facts."

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“Yes, you can buy it everywhere, but it's banned.” Are you serious, Pu Zhiqiang?

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