Borderland Fiction: The Mongol Would-be Self-immolator

Guidelines for censorship in the Xi Jinping Era have tightened considerably for all, be they bloggers, reporters or novelists, but for minority authors who wish to highlight the culture or challenges facing non-Han peoples within today’s PRC, the obstacles to publication and the list of “unmentionables” is even longer. Aside from a shortage of translators working from indigenous languages into Mandarin or foreign languages, there is also the subtle impact of state- and self-censorship that ensures certain “ethnic realities” are rarely depicted, be it in a magazine, book or online, in reportage or even fictional form. A Uyghur businessman who tries to book a room in Shanghai may be informed the hotel is full, or face interrogation from a policeman; a community of Mongolian herders may be conveniently classified as “ecological migrants” (生态移民), given negligible compensation and forced to relocate, in order to make way for a profitable mining project or power plant; and a rural Tibetan dweller may be refused entry to Lhasa, home to innumerable sites sacred to indigenous Buddhists, because he lacks a travel permit to enter the administrative capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Such real-life phenomena are contentious and perceived by the authorities as likely to breed “inter-ethnic” discontent, and when mentioned in literary works or reportage are heavily redacted or simply not published. Very occasionally, however, a minority author — as in the excerpt below — manages to skirt the censors and turn the spotlight on burning issues.

attached to: Guo Xuebo


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