STOCKHOLM — This year’s Nobel Prize in literature winner, Mo Yan, who has been criticized for his membership in China’s Communist Party and reluctance to speak out against the country’s government, defended censorship Thursday as something as necessary as airport security checks.
He also suggested he won’t join an appeal calling for the release of the jailed 2010 Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, a fellow writer and compatriot.
Mo has been criticized by human rights activists for not being a more outspoken defender of freedom of speech and for supporting the Communist Party-backed writers’ association, of which he is vice president.
His comments Thursday, made during a news conference in Stockholm, appear unlikely to soften his critics’ views toward him.
Awarding him the literature prize has also brought criticism from previous winners. Herta Mueller, the 2009 literature laureate, called the jury’s choice of Mo a “catastrophe” in an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter last month. She also accused Mo of protecting the Asian country’s censorship laws.
China’s rulers forbid opposition parties and maintain strict control over all media.
Mo said he doesn’t feel that censorship should stand in the way of truth but that any defamation, or rumors, “should be censored.”
“But I also hope that censorship, per se, should have the highest principle,” he said in comments translated by an interpreter from Chinese into English.
Mo is spending several days in Stockholm before receiving his prestigious prize in an awards ceremony next Monday.
“When I was taking my flight, going through the customs … they also wanted to check me — even taking off my belt and shoes,” he said. “But I think these checks are necessary.”
Mo also dodged questions about Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Peace Prize winner. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending China’s single-party rule and enacting democratic reforms.
China’s reception of the two Nobel laureates has been worlds apart.
While it rejected the honor bestowed on Liu, calling it a desecration of the Nobel tradition, it welcomed Mo’s win with open arms, saying it reflected “the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China.”