China: Book banned prior to printing

Prior to a recent reprinting, ‘A Narrow Escape From Death: My ‘Right-wing’ Life’, a book from retired Xinhua journalist Dai Huang was banned from being published by order of China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), in which Dai recounts the years during which he was cast as a rightist and forced to undergo reform labor.

Civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, one of the biggest names in his field, has agreed to take up Dai's case. Pu's Sohu blog has recently been deleted, but a statement from the lawyer appeared on ‘edgy’ bbs forum WHXF late on the evening of March 21st. Dear friends, Pu begins:


According to administrative procedural law and the Supreme Court's judicial interpretation of the rules, the Court should process the case within seven days of it being filed, or else rule against hearing the case. In the event that a case cannot be processed within seven days, it should still be processed before a decision is made to accept or reject it. If after seven days the Court has yet to either process the case or make a decision on whether to hear it, the plaintiff can directly appeal to or register the case at the next higher court. But the Beijing #2 Intermediate Court passed the March 7 deadline, and still informed us to “hold on”. Whether or not the case would be ruled admissible remained to be seen.


For this reason, on March 8 Zhang Sizhi and I returned to the Court and applied for expedition in the processing of the case with the goal of seeing this case, originally filed on February 28, become reality. In order to head off any possible future unclarity, at this time we requested the judge to understand that to hear cases according to the law is the duty of the courts and the refusal to do so requires an appropriate reason. At this time, I told the court that we are placing importance on this case, and expect the court to see the case through in accordance with the law, at the same time explaining that we would not rest until until it was taken care of, asking the court not to take this lightly.

The letter posted onto the bbs seems to have been truncated from an e-mail:


Please find document 2 attached.

The next—third—time Pu contacted the court, March 13, was to inquire on the case's progress. Pu says he was told authorization had just been sent down from the Beijing Supreme Court, that it was being researched and we would still have to wait. Around the time the Two Sessions ended, Pu writes, it was announced that the Beijing #2 Intermediate Court had rejected Mr. Dai Huang's case against the GAPP .

On March 20, contact was made with the court for a fourth time, at which point Pu says he was told the reason Mr. Dai Huang's lawsuit was rejected was because Dai “doesn't meet the legal requirements”, with the court saying it felt the object of GAPP's “shot” was not Dai himself, but the China's Writer Union and the Writer's Publishing Houses.

So is Dai qualified to sue the GAPP for ordering his book not to be published? Pu writes:


The plaintiff in this case, Mr. Dai Huang, took part in the New Fourth Army as a reporter. As a result of speaking frankly, in 1957 he was cast as right-wing, and for twenty years he lost his freedom and saw his family broken up. The act in itself of him writing out what he experienced is a responsible attitude towards history. In addition, this book has already been published twice on the mainland, and there exists no possible reason why it should be “shot”. The publishing house, bound by Deputy Director Wu Shulin‘s “procedures for investigating major subjects” to to routinely report back for approval, was actually advised not to publish [the book] in accordance with ‘an unclear document regarding regulations’ from the GAPP. This incident inadvertently makes clear the many restrictions on freedoms of publishing and writing in mainland China.

What's crucial about this, Pu says, is that unlike the list of eight books banned recently, Mr. Dai's book was banned before it even came out, making this what Pu sees as one of most notorious examples of pre-emptive censorship ever…As the first case of a mainland writer suing the GAPP administration for illegally banning a book, the significance of this case is especially profound.

Finishing up, Pu writes:


While I'm at it, I'd like to inform everyone that we've recently been representing Mr. Zhang Yihe and as of January 11 have filed a lawsuit against Wu Shulin on behalf of the GAPP for its illegal banning of Past Stories of Peking Opera Stars and preparation is currently underway.


Thanks for your attention,

浦志强 2007年3月21日于广州

Pu Zhiqiang
March 21, 2007

Interestingly, the can be read online in its entirety at no cost, is reviewed in some places and is even for sale at Taobao, the Chinese version of eBay.

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