Prominent Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng on Thursday criticised the awarding of the Nobel literature prize to officially tolerated author Mo Yan, saying the move was meant to please Beijing.
Wei, often considered the father of China’s modern democracy movement, praised Mo Yan’s skill as a writer but questioned his actions including copying by hand part of a speech by late leader Mao Zedong for a commemorative book.
Saying that China also had other talented writers, Wei charged that the Nobel committee chose Mo Yan because his selection would be “more tolerated by the communist regime.”
“Thus, this award is not really based on true skill in literature but a reflection of the will of big business,” Wei, who lives in exile in Washington, said.
“Just look at the elated hype on the Nobel prize by the Chinese government before and after the announcement. We could tell that this prize was awarded for the purpose of pleasing the communist regime and is thus not noteworthy,” he said.
In announcing the first Nobel litreature prize to a Chinese national, the Swedish Academy said that it was honouring Mo Yan for using “fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives” to create worlds reminiscent of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The award won wide praise in China’s state-controlled media, which two years earlier imposed a blackout after the Nobel committee in Norway awarded the prestigious peace prize to dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.
Unlike Mo Yan, Liu has run afoul of the Chinese system. Authorities arrested Liu in 2008 and sentenced him to 11 years in jail on Christmas Day 2009 after he authored a pro-democracy manifesto known as Charter 08.
Wei, who has been tipped in the past for the Nobel Peace Prize and has criticised Liu as too accommodating, is a former electrician who boldly put up a poster urging democracy and signed his name to it after Mao’s death in 1976.
Wei spent 18 years in prison, partially on death row, until he was allowed to go into exile in 1997 after intervention by then US president Bill Clinton.