Dissidents attacked Mo Yan’s (莫言) Nobel Prize in Literature as a disgraceful vindication of the Chinese Communist Party’s control of creative expression yesterday, accusing the author of being a “stooge” of officialdom.
However, Mo Yan defended his Nobel prize yesterday and expressed hope for the early release of jailed fellow laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波).
While China continued to bask in the reflected glory of the prize with an outpouring of pride that contrasted with the fury that greeted other Nobel awards linked to the country, opponents of China’s government branded it a shameful validation of state controls on publishing.
Dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) attacked Mo Yan as a government stooge and ridiculed the official response by Beijing, which criticized earlier Nobel Peace Prizes for the Dalai Lama and Liu.
“He will always stand on the side of power and he will not have one bit of individualism,” Ai said, referring to Mo Yan.
Prominent Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng (魏京生), considered by many to be the father of China’s modern democracy movement, criticized 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 Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) — delivered to 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 Chinese 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 [it] is thus not noteworthy,” Wei said.
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,” the People’s Daily said.
However, Yu Jie (余杰), 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 in 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.
However, Mo Yan stood his ground in a press briefing likely to anger both sides.
He dismissed his detractors, saying they probably had not read his books.
“Some say that because I have a close relationship with the Communist Party, I shouldn’t have won the prize. I think this is unconvincing,” Mo Yan said.
He called his award “a literature victory, not a political victory.”
Mo Yan also defended Mao, who wrote that Chinese art must serve the party.
“I think some of Mao’s remarks on art were reasonable,” the author said.
Looking relaxed and confident, he also courted official anger by saying he hoped that Liu could be freed soon.