After Ai Weiwei's arrest, a hard hitting Chinese author remains undeterred
Li Chengpeng belongs to a new breed of Chinese authors who have to come to prominence in the era of the Internet. His novel brought social criticism, widely available online, to a broad print audience – uncharted waters in China's censorship regime.
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Although human rights groups are calling the arrests a "crackdown," the determination of bestselling and controversial Chinese novelist Li Chengpeng shows that some critics of the government remain outspoken.
Mr. Li, a prominent blogger and the author of a novel that deals with the normally taboo topic of land seizures, says he's not afraid of the government crackdown. “As a man, if you’re going to do something, you have to face all the consequences.”
Amnesty International estimates that more than 100 journalists, writers, and activists have been arrested or detained without charges in the past three weeks, following uprisings in the Middle East and calls on the Internet for protests across Chinese cities.
The arrests of Mr. Ai and other artists were part of a widespread effort to rein in critical voices across traditional and new media. Corinna-Barbara Francis, an East Asia researcher with Amnesty International, says that although the detainees were not all democracy activists, what they have in common “is that the regime feels threatened by them.”
But the arrests represented only a change in tactics, not in policy aims, says David Bandurski, project researcher for the China Media Project at Hong Kong University. "The government has never relinquished control of the media, or control of the expression of public opinion generally," he says. "But there's no question that what we've seen in recent months is a tightening."
Despite that attempt at “tightening,” Li belongs to a new breed of Chinese authors who have to come to prominence in the era of the Internet. His novel brought confident and aggressive social criticism, widely available online, to a broad print audience – uncharted waters in a country with a vast and sophisticated censorship regime.