Taiwan author hits back over book ban, saying she is proud to be banned in China

Chinese schools have been banning any texts that don't sing the praises of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
By Fong Tak Ho for RFA Cantonese, and by Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin
2022.08.31
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Taiwan author hits back over book ban, saying she is proud to be banned in China Lung Yingtai in an undated photo.
Lung Yingtai's Facebook account

Taiwanese author Lung Yingtai has responded to the banning of her books in Chinese schools, saying she is honored to have been targeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s ever-widening program of censorship.

"I am honored to have been banned by you," the former Taiwanese culture minister and long-term critic of authoritarian rule wrote on her Facebook page after schools in the eastern Chinese provinces of Shandong and Jiangsu, among other locations, issued notices to parents that all of her works were no longer considered suitable reading matter for children.

"Actually, I have been banned for a long time," she wrote, adding that "Big River, Big Sea 1949" and "Please Use Civilization to Convince Me" have been banned in China for more than 10 years now.

Other works including "Watching You Go" and "Dear Andreas" have also been targeted, Lung wrote.

"They were removed from the shelves in a lot of places after I spoke out on behalf of Hong Kong in 2019," Lung wrote.

She added: "The basic prerequisite for the existence of any government is that it safeguard individual freedoms."

Her comments came after parents at schools in the eastern port city of Qingdao received notification that a slew of titles were now no longer considered appropriate reading matter for children, and that parents should "archive" such titles.

Also on the list were popular works about classical Chinese thinkers like Confucius, Mencius and Zhuangzi by Yi Zhongtian, and works by children's history book authors Bei Mao and Chen Lihua.

'Brainwashing our students'

A former high school in the central city of Zhengzhou who gave only the surname Jia said anything that doesn't explicitly reflect the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) line on any topic is now out of bounds at every level of the Chinese education system.

"This is a very scary thing," Jia said. "Even back during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, there were still a hundred schools of thought contending and a hundred flowers blooming, so there were a great many thinkers back in those days."

"Nowadays, I'm not allowed to read this book, and I can't read that book; these are pretty excellent works that people aren't allowed to read now," she said.

A Hunan-based current affairs commentator who gave only the surname Li said some of the bans are now being rolled out nationwide.

"I know this because I have friends in the education bureau [of the local government] ... and a friend who is a high-school teacher, who says books are being 'cleaned up' and 'rectified' in their school too," Li said.

"Any non-standardized text is being removed from the shelves," he said. "It's tantamount to strengthening controls and brainwashing our students with ideology."

Lu Pan, a former teacher at high school in Suzhou, agreed.

"These books are not the work of hostile forces at all ... but books that could bring some enlightenment to young children," Lu told RFA. "[Targeting] books is a common method used in totalitarian rule."

A retired lecturer at Guizhou University who gave only the surname Li said Yi Zhongtian and Guo Jingxiong's work could be seen as a form of subtle criticism of the current regime.

"They are suspected of using the past to produce satire of the present," Li said. "Yi Zhongtian uses the Water Margin, the Three Kingdoms, Laozi and Zhuangzi to warn the 'sages' of today how they should run a country."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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