From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

The Beijing Book Fair?

A censorship scandal has already erupted around October's Frankfurt Book Fair, whose guest of honour this year is China. This coming Saturday, in the lead up to the fair, Frankfurt will be hosting a symposium on "China and the World", (pdf) together with the Chinese. One of the speakers, an influential investigative journalist and environmental activist, Dai Qing, has now come under pressure from the Chinese delegation not to give her talk, as Bernhard Bartsch reported yesterday in the Frankfurter Rundschau: "The written invitation issued by the Frankfurt Book Fair, which Dai needed to apply for her visa, vanished into thin air at the behest of the Peking authorities for Press and Publication (GAPP), which is now threatening to pull out of conference entirely if the disagreeable author is allowed to enter the country."

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Henrik Bork reported: "The Chinese have 'stated unequivocally that if Ms Dai Qing does turn up after all, they will pull out all together,' according to Peter Ripken, the symposium's organiser. This has created a 'catch-22 situation', because it would mean that the entire 10-person delegation from Beijing boycotts the symposium."

It was announced today that Dai Qing has received an express visa from the German embassy and is intent on coming to Frankfurt this weekend, Henrik Bork reports. And the Book Fair? It is making "worried noises about Dai's insistence on coming to Frankfurt. 'It could bring the whole event to its knees,' says Peter Ripken. 'We want a real debate, but without the Chinese attendees the conference would become a tribunal.' Last Wednesday he was still under the assumption that Dai would agreed not to come to Frankfurt until October when she would talk at an event that was not connected to the official Chinese programme at the Book Fair." Hang Hui, professor of Humanities at Tsinghua University and a pioneer of the government-critical "new left" in China who was to give a key note speech at the symposium, will also not be attending. He told the FR that "his visa application had been rejected by the German embassy on formal grounds".

Another speaker who has been "uninvited" after pressure from Beijing, is the poet and political commentator, Bei Ling, who lives in exile in the USA, as Andrea Lorenz reports in Spiegel Online. "'Yesterday I received a phone call urging me not to fly to Frankfurt,' Bei Ling told Spiegel Online. 'All hell would break lose if I turned up, I was informed.'"

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Henrik Bork and David Steinitz translated excerpts of the speech which Bei Ling was due to deliver at the Frankfurt symposium: "In China every writer knows exactly what he can write and what not. Self-censorship is imperative for survival and for a writer's success, particularly for novelists. Because membership in the state writers' associations is linked to market influence, payment and potential fame after publication, self-censorship and state censorship enter into a complex co-existence. This relationship makes Chinese writers, journalists and publishers into conscious or unconscious accomplices in the state control of the news and press."

Other stories:

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07.09.2009

Now that the EU has signed the death warrant for the incandescent light bulb, art critic and novelist Ulf Erdmann Ziegler recommends stocking up before it's too late. "Admittedly it was a lot of work, it cost me an arm and a leg and it was a logistical nightmare of storage and labelling. I gave up counting at some point, but I have collected two or three thousand light bulbs of various kinds, which is probably enough to last me a lifetime. The pitying looks of my neighbours have not escaped me."

Der Freitag 10.09.2009

In Freitag magazine, a number of prominent writers - including Martin Walser, Elfriede Jelinek and Charlotte Roche - call for the German army to pull out of Afghanistan. "The enemy is not an army but a culture. This is why this conflict cannot be resolved by military engagement, but only through long-term engagement in political developmentā€¦. In the course of the next two years Germany should terminate its military presence in Afghanistan. This time should be used for a transition to non-military engagement."

Die Zeit 10.09.2009

In an Op-Ed piece, Karsten Polke-Majewski describes the disinterest and incompetence of German politics in the World Wide Web as a threat to society: "More than 52 million citizens organise their daily lives with the help of the Internet. But the Bundestag does not have a single influential committee that deals with the protection of this critical infrastructure. Instead a cloud of angst-ridden terms are darkening the political landscape. Their names are IP theft, killer games, child pornography and cyber-terrorismā€¦ Any one who believes that the Internet is nothing but a mass medium like radio or TV, is misguided." - let's talk european