Liu's fight is not Mo Yan's responsibility

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 7:54am

Criticisms of Mo Yan for refusing to talk about Liu Xiaobo during his trip to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Prize for literature are sickening, mindless and petty. He chose literature, not dissent or human rights, as a career and personal choice. He has every right to stick to his own conscience, which is devotion to literature, and not to follow politically correct fashion.

Some mainland citizens become dissidents out of conscience, anger and/or a deep sense of injustice; others do it for less noble reasons. There are overseas human rights activists driven to criticise the central government out of goodness and decency; others out of serious bias, ignorance and double standards. Whatever the reasons, they make their career choices and follow their own consciences. This is their entitlement. What they are not entitled to do is to impose their career choices and decisions of conscience on others, and to criticise them if they refuse.

In any case, Mo has ALREADY spoken out for Liu. In October, shortly after it was announced that he had won the prize, Mo called for Liu's release. That was widely reported around the world. His critics can search for it easily on Google. It is not Mo's responsibility to make that call every time he attends a public function. The Nobel ceremony is a celebration of Mo's literary achievements; it's about Mo, not Liu.

It was a political mistake - and also immoral - to imprison Liu. But Liu will eventually be released and cease to be a cause célèbre. He is a man of courage, but nothing he has written so far compares with Mo's work and it will not endure.

His critics might have had a stronger case if Mo had won the peace prize. But that's not the case. Why single out literature for politicisation? You can say writing publicly is inherently political - especially when the writer pretends to be apolitical. But if you want to take that route, you will have to politicise science and engineering too because they enable governments to develop weapons of mass destruction and do countless other dangerous things. In other words, you can politicise anything you want. Critics pick on Mo because it suits their agendas and lets them get on their high horses, and the free world's media duly obliges them.

Spare us the hypocrisy.