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Knives come out over China writer's Nobel win

Chinese dissidents assailed Mo Yan's Nobel literature prize as a disgraceful vindication of the Communist Party's control of creative expression Friday, accusing the author of being a stooge of officialdom.

world Updated: Oct 12, 2012 11:30 IST

Chinese dissidents assailed Mo Yan's Nobel literature prize as a disgraceful vindication of the Communist Party's control of creative expression Friday, accusing the author of being a stooge of officialdom.

While China continued to bask in the prize with an outpouring of pride that contrasted with the fury that greeted previous awards linked to the country, opponents of China's government branded it a shameful validation of state controls on publishing.

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei ripped into Mo Yan as a government stooge and ridiculed the official response by Beijing, which lashed out at earlier Nobel peace prizes for the Dalai Lama and dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.

"He will always stand on the side of power and he will not have one bit of individualism," Ai told AFP, referring to Mo Yan.

Ai also accused Chinese authorities of double standards, saying the names of other Chinese prize winners "will never be seen inside China", referring to the past peace laureates.

Prominent Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, considered by many the father of China's modern democracy movement, criticised the prize as an effort to appease Beijing, which lashed out in 2010 over Liu's peace award.

Wei praised Mo Yan, 57, as a writer but questioned actions such as his copying by hand of a speech by late leader Mao Zedong -- delivered at the Communist revolutionary base at Yanan during China's civil war -- for a commemorative book this year.

In the speech, Mao states that art and culture should support the Communist Party.

"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," Wei said.

In sharp contrast to the past vitriol, China's government mouthpieces went into overdrive to praise Mo Yan and his prize.

"Chinese authors have waited too long for this day, the Chinese people have waited too long. We congratulate Mo Yan!" said the People's Daily, official outlet for the ruling Communist party.

Mo Yan has said he was "stunned" and delighted by the award.

But Yu Jie, an exiled dissident writer, was quoted by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle as calling the award "the biggest scandal in the history of the Nobel prize for literature."

"That an author who copied Mao Zedong's Yanan text and sang the praises of Mao Zedong can earn the prize -- the number of people Mao Zedong slaughtered surpasses even that of Stalin and Hitler," he reportedly said.

Mo Yan, 57, the first Chinese national to win the literature prize, is a prolific writer known for works that explore the brutality and darkness of 20th Century Chinese society with a cynical wit.

But even some of China's state-run media questioned whether the award was meant to curry favour with China.

"Could the decision also be a sign of the Nobel committee seeking to mitigate tensions with China after awarding the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo in 2010?" asked the Global Times, noting that the award "tended to be politicised".

Some of Mo Yan's work has cast an unflattering eye on official policy, such as his 2009 novel "Frog," which looks at China's "one child" limit and local officials who ruthlessly implement it with forced abortions and sterilisations.

But literary critics have said Mo Yan has dodged censure by deftly avoiding overt criticism of authorities. He is also a Communist party member and vice-chairman of the China Writers' Association.

Mo Yan, a pen name for the author, who was born Guan Moye, may be best known abroad for his 1987 novella "Red Sorghum", a tale of the brutal violence that plagued the eastern China countryside, where he grew up, during the 1920s and 30s.

It was later made into an acclaimed film by leading Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

AFP has not been able to reach Mo Yan, whose mobile phone has remained powered off. State media said he was at his home in rural Shandong province, where many of his works are set.

First Published: Oct 12, 2012 11:28 IST