Frankfurt Book Fair

Chinese officials still angry over the appearance of dissident writers at last weekend’s symposium

(September 16, 2009) A Chinese government official is expressing outrage at the organizers of last weekend’s symposium, which was part of the run-up to next month’s Frankfurt Book Fair, after dissident writers Dai Qing and Bei Ling were allowed to participate in the event.

The government official’s criticism of the event’s organizers comes after introductory remarks by the writers prompted a walkout by the Chinese delegation.

According to the Berliner Zeitung, China’s ambassador to Berlin, Wu Hongbo,   lambasted the organizers, calling their conduct “unacceptable” and “not an expression of respect for their Chinese partners.”

After Dai Qing and Bei Ling stepped onto the stage to provide an introduction to the symposium, called “China and the World—Perceptions and Reality,” the official delegation quickly showed their displeasure and made for the exit. Eventually the delegation was persuaded to return and take part in the debate.

“The world outside China has many prejudices and there are misunderstandings,” Wu was quoted in an article for AFP. “To overcome these misunderstandings, all sides must … hold to the principle of mutual respect, equal treatment and not interfering in internal affairs.”

Another official, former ambassador Mei Zhaorong, was more harsh in his criticism of the event’s organizers, saying “we did not come to be instructed about democracy.”

The director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos, was apologetic to the delegation for what he called a scheduling error. But he was also quick to point out that the fair would not be intimidated into self-censorship.

“The fair is not taking place in Beijing,” he said. “If we allow ourselves to be influenced by one country’s politicians, we might as well shut up shop.”

Boos’ decision to stand-up to the Chinese delegation appears to have gained momentum as the events unfolded. After initially supporting the decision by the event’s organizers to rescind invitations to Dai Qing and Bei Ling, Boos has repeatedly stated that the Frankfurt Book Fair will not allow itself to be pressured by anyone and cannot be manipulated by the Chinese government.

“The Frankfurt Book Fair does not compromise to the detriment of freedom of expression,” he said in a written statement. “Facilitating dialogue is not easy. We have always been aware of this and the symposium confirmed this. Dialogue is, however, the right way and the only way.”

Brady Yauch, Probe International, September 16, 2009

Categories: Frankfurt Book Fair

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