“Foreigners Under Fire”

The Diplomat has a piece from writer Tonio Andrade, who describes the changes requested by Chinese censors when he tried to publish a book in the PRC:

My new book, Lost Colony: the Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West, won’t be published in mainland China. It might have found a strong readership there. Its main personage, Koxinga, is famous for driving the Dutch from Taiwan and bringing the island under Chinese rule. The story of his triumph is a gripping one, and I strove to tell it in a balanced way: no East versus West, just humans scrambling to do their best during hard times. As a member of the global history movement, this kind of balanced history is what I strive for. It’s the mission of my scholarly life.

But Chinese censors apparently don’t truck with balance. My erstwhile publisher asked whether I would acquiesce to omitting some “sensitive material” and changing some wording. It sounded like an innocuous request until I got to the details. Since Koxinga is considered a “positive figure in China,” my publisher informed me that the text would have to omit any discussion of torture by him and his soldiers. (Descriptions of Dutch atrocities were acceptable, though.) The book couldn’t refer to Koxinga as a “conqueror” or a “warlord,” and his “restoration of Taiwan” couldn’t be referred to as an invasion or an attack. Similarly, any mention of resistance by Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples (who, historical sources make clear, rose up and killed thousands of his soldiers), would also have to be excised, on the grounds that such episodes hint of “some sort of consciousness of Taiwanese independence.” The Chinese publisher said that if I refused to make such changes, the translation wouldn’t proceed. “Abridgement,” I was told, “is unavoidable.”

And so I set aside my dreams of renown and royalties and said no.

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1 Comment

Filed under censorship, history, Taiwan

One response to ““Foreigners Under Fire”

  1. Bill Ganapathy

    I am sorry for you and hope that one day, when China truly opens up and is rid of the ruling clique there, you will fare better.

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