Book censorship in China

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Book censorship in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is implemented or mandated by the PRC's ruling party, the Communist Party of China.

Book censorship is widespread in China. Enforcement is strict and sometimes inconsistent. Punishment for violations can result in prison. The Chinese government is extremely sensitive to any opinions on the politics and history of China and its leaders that differ from currently sanctioned opinions or that discuss topics that are officially taboo. What is officially taboo can change over time.

As well as censoring the publication of such books within China and encouraging self censorship, the importation and dissemination of such material is often severely punished and circulation by the way of online files is strictly controlled. There are so many books and publications that are banned in China that it is impossible to list them all. Book types that are typically banned are as follows: Books about Chinese modern politics, biographies of former leaders. Books about the lives of or allegations concerning current leaders - these are particularly sensitive topics. Books concerning Tibet and Xinjiang that do less than fully endorse that these have always and will always be part of China Books about the Dalai Lama, about the June 4th 1989 Tiananmen square massacre or the events of the Cultural Revolution. Books about the Falun Gong religious movement. Books of allegorical fiction that obliquely criticize the Chinese government.

China's state-run General Administration of Press and Publication (新闻出版总署) (GAPP) screens all Chinese literature that is intended to be sold on the open market. The GAPP has the legal authority to screen, censor, and ban any print, electronic, or Internet publication in China. Because all publishers in China are required to be licensed by the GAPP, that agency also has the power to deny people the right to publish, and completely shut down any publisher who fails to follow its dictates.[1] Consequently, the ratio of official-to-unlicensed books is said to be 40%:60%.[2] According to a report in ZonaEuropa, there are more than 4,000 underground publishing factories around China.[1] The Chinese government continues to hold public book burnings [3] on unapproved yet popular "spiritual pollution" literature, though critics claim this spotlight on individual titles only helps fuel booksales.[4]

Some banned books are available in limited circulation to Communist party leaders, so they can better understand the outside world. These books are marked as for internal use (內部) i.e. within the party only.

Hong Kong[edit]

Publishing in Hong Kong remains uncensored. Publishers such as New Century Press freely publish books, including lurid fictional accounts, about Chinese officials and forbidden episodes of Chinese history. Banned material including imported material such as that published by Mirror Books of New York City are sold in bookshops such as "People’s Commune bookstore" patronized by shoppers from the mainland.[5]

List of banned books[edit]

This is a tiny portion of the thousands of books that have been, or are banned in China.

Title Author Type Notes
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) Lewis Carroll Children's Novel/Adventure Was banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. The censor General Ho Chien believed that attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. He feared that the book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level, which would be "disastrous."[6]
Big River, Big Sea — Untold Stories of 1949 (2009) Lung Ying-tai Non-Fiction It sold over 100,000 copies in Taiwan and 10,000 in Hong Kong in its first month of release, but discussion of her work was banned in mainland China following the book launch.[7]
Bloody Myth: An Account of the Cultural Revolution Massacre of 1967 in Daoxian, Hunan (血的神话: 公元1967年湖南道县文革大屠杀纪实) Tan Hecheng Non-fiction An account of murders in a rural district of China during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Banned for 26 years and released in 2012.[8]
Green Eggs and Ham (1960) Dr. Seuss Novel In 1965, the children's novel was temporarily banned in the People's Republic of China for its portrayal of early Marxism.[9] The ban was lifted in 1991, following Seuss' death.[10]
Various works Shen Congwen (1902–1988) Novels "Denounced by the Communists and Nationalists alike, Mr. Shen saw his writings banned in Taiwan, while mainland [China] publishing houses burned his books and destroyed printing plates for his novels. .... So successful was the effort to erase Mr. Shen's name from the modern literary record that few younger Chinese today recognize his name, much less the breadth of his work. Only since 1978 has the Chinese Government reissued selections of his writings, although in editions of only a few thousand copies. .... In China, his passing was unreported."[11]
Zhuan Falun (1993) Li Hongzhi Spiritual Banned in Mainland China[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "General Administration of Press and Publication". CECC. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2008. 
  2. ^ "The Underground Publishing Industry in China". ZoneEuropa. Retrieved 5 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Sheng, John. "Afterthoughts on the Banning of "Shanghai Baby"". Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2008. 
  4. ^ "Naughty CHINA". Amazon.Com. Retrieved 5 September 2008. 
  5. ^ Chris Buckley (May 18, 2013). "On Hong Kong Shelves, Illicit Dirt on China's Elite". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Topics of the Times". The New York Times. 5 May 1931. p. 26. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  7. ^ China Free Press Lung Ying-tai becomes an internet pariah in China Archived 2010-05-07 at the Wayback Machine.. (2009-09-18). Retrieved on 2010-05-09.
  8. ^ Sheridan, Michael (25 November 2012). "China lifts veil on Mao's mass killings". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "Ten Surprisingly Banned Books". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Banned Books Week: Green Eggs and Ham". New York Public Library. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  11. ^ Gargan, Edward A. (13 May 1988). "Shen Congwen, 85, a Champion of Freedom for Writers in China". New York Times. Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  12. ^ Bald, Margaret (c. 2006). Banned Books : Literature Suppressed on cultural grounds. New York, NY: Facts on File. pp. 354–358. ISBN 0-8160-6269-2.