Popular novelist Murong Xuecun says the mainland's draconian censorship has driven him to his wit's end.
The 37-year-old author, known for his dark humour, launched a scathing attack on the mainland's literary censorship in a lunchtime speech at the Foreign Correspondent's Club yesterday, blaming it for quashing writers' creativity and sabotaging the Chinese language.
"We cannot criticise the system, we cannot discuss current affairs ... sometimes I can't help but wonder is the Cultural Revolution really over?" said Murong (pictured). "Why does modern China lack great writers? That's because they were already castrated while still in the nursery."
Murong said he often had to carry out what he called "self-castration" in his works. "I would often take it upon myself to cut certain words ... I call this `castrated writing' and I'm a proactive eunuch."
The impassioned speech was meant to be read out at the People's Literature Prize ceremony last year, at which Murong was an award winner for his latest book about his time spent undercover inside an illegal pyramid scheme. But Murong, whose real name is Hao Qun, was barred from giving the speech because of its "sensitive" content.
Murong said that in the process of publishing the book, he was "nearly suffocated" by the mainland's censorship process.
He was exasperated when the editor of his tongue-in-cheek book objected to seemingly innocent phrases, such as "Chinese peasants", "China would rule the world", "imperialist stealth fighter jets" and even "Henan people". "Chinese people" had to be changed to "some people" or even "a few people".
Murong ruefully joked he could easily compile a "dictionary of sensitive words" from his experience with censorship.
To him, the editor's paranoia over words and phrases reflected the harsh environment for writers on the mainland.
"I have to ask ... what kind of system would make an editor so sensitive and so afraid? What kind of system could make me, a law-abiding citizen, a writer, live in indescribable fear?"
When asked what he thought of the recent gatherings on the mainland inspired by the "jasmine revolutions" in the Middle East, he answered: "Jasmine flowers in May in China, it's now February and it's not time yet. But that doesn't mean we cannot think about its fragrance."