HONG KONG—One of China’s most influential writers, Han Han, attended a press conference at a book exhibit and outreach program in Hong Kong on July 22. Nearly a thousand fans gathered to catch a glimpse of the popular cultural icon.
“Triple Doors,” Han’s debut novel, published around the same time he gave up trying to enter college, exposed issues in China’s educational system. Particularly admired by China’s “post 80’s generation,” the 27 year old had his first book published when in junior high school.
Ranked the second in the Time magazine’s 2010 list of the 100 most influential people, Han is also China’s most popular blogger and a professional race car driver.
In his speech, Han brought up the topic of literary censorship in China. “It’s not that the government authorities [directly] censor [literary works],” he said. “Those organizations will not necessarily censor [your work] — they just leave it to the publishers and harm people through the hands of others.”
Treading the Line
Answering a question on how writers can avoid “crossing the line” in China, Han joked that the relevant question is how to avoid stepping on the line in the first place.
“In fact, in any country, the constitution ought to serve as a bottom-line benchmark. But, in China, the way the constitution functions, is, at times, not up-to-par. When that happens, the media has to set the benchmarks,” Han said.
“Every media worker has his or her ideals. Eventually, I think there won’t be a ‘line,’ because everything can only take a certain amount of weight, and if it gets too heavy, it will definitely break,” Han said.
Han told the audience that he once wanted to become a journalist as it would empower him to expose bad things in society. “Later on I realized being a journalist was not going to work, because there are editors above me, and there’re higher-ups above [editors]. Then I felt being a writer had relatively more freedom, so I started writing,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about his own safety, he said: “My family, my situation, and my own safety—have I worried about it? Yes I have, because I am worried I won't be able to go back to China.” He emphasized that he prefers to stay in China, but, if he had to live in exile, he would choose Hong Kong or Taiwan.
“I don’t want the politics I hate to get in the way of the literature and art I love,” Han said.
A Culture-Tolerant City
“A city that has produced so many good movies cannot be a city without culture; furthermore, it has to be tolerant of different cultures,” Han remarked, defending Hong Kong from critics who label it “a city with no culture.”
“I thank this city for having protected and patronized many literati and writers, especially those from the mainland,” Han added.
Many fans waited in line for autographs and photos after the event.