Frankfurt Book Fair

Chinese government prevents Dai Qing and other critics from attending the Frankfurt Book Fair event

(September 10, 2009) Dai Qing, the international-recognized environmentalist, journalist and activist, has been barred by the Chinese government from attending a conference in Germany in the lead up to the world’s largest trade fair.

According to media reports in Germany, Dai Qing was invited by organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair to speak at symposium this weekend.  But Dai Qing says the Beijing General Administration of Press and Publication returned invitations for her and another vocal government critic and philosophy professor Xu Youyo. Dai Qing says the organizers of the conference had already booked her air ticket and hotel.

“In October, China will spend $7.3 million to fly 100 especially selected authors to Germany,” Dai Wing told the Berliner Zeitung. “But those who, like I, could speak inconvenient truths are prevented by all means possible from leaving.”

One of the country’s largest newspapers, the Berliner Zeitung today called it a  “censorship scandal.” According to the paper, China is threatening to boycott the fair in October if Dai Qing participates.

The dispute between China and the Frankfurt Book Fair is particularly ironic, as China is this year’s guest of honour. Each year the fair allows one country the chance to present its culture, history and literature at the fair. This weekend’s conference was set up ahead of the fair to help reduce misunderstandings and prejudices against China before the event, the organizers told the German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

Meanwhile, Guenter Nooke, the German government’s top commissioner for human rights issues, says the fair organizers need to be adamant in their promotion of human rights.

“They must stand up for human rights with unambiguous and unmistakable clarity,” he told a reporter from DPA.

Dai Qing has worked for years with Probe International, a Toronto based environmental organization that has translated and published her books, Yangtze! Yangtze! and The River Dragon Has Come! as well as her other exposes about the Three Gorges dam and Beijing’s water crisis.

Dai Qing is also a winner of numerous awards and fellowships—including the Nieman Fellowship for Journalists from Harvard University,  International PEN Award for Freedom, Goldman Environment Prize and Condé Nast Environmental Award. She was also awarded a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C in 1998.

Brady Yauch, Probe International, September 10, 2009

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Categories: Frankfurt Book Fair

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