Frankfurt to be uncensored, say organizers; China really pissed
Our story so far: The fuss started when the organizers of the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair — the worldwide book industry’s biggest and most important annual convention — withdrew invitations to two Chinese dissident authors, Bei Ling and Dai Qing, who’d been invited to appear at “a symposium about the fair’s guest of honour, China,” provoking widespread criticism and charges of censorship. Then organizers changed their minds and reinvited the two dissidents, “causing the official Chinese delegation to walk out and demand an apology.”
Now, according to a Bookseller report by Catherine Neilan, FBF director Juergen Boos is trying to put an end to the furor, issuing a statement that the original decision to disinvite the two authors “was wrong,” and saying that not only Bei Ling and Dai Qing would be in attendance, but so would Chinese Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian, whose work has been banned in China, as well Taiwanese writer Chang Ta-Chun. Also, he said Tibet would be discussed “at numerous events.”
Speaking for the Chinese, meanwhile, Mei Zhaorong, a former Chinese ambassador to Germany, said, “We did not come here for a lesson in democracy. Those times are over.”
Replied Boos, “The Frankfurt Book Fair is not offering instruction in democracy, to be sure, but it is democracy in action. These are the rules of the game of the Frankfurt Book Fair.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.