China Nobel winner Mo Yan calls for jailed laureate's freedom

Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:49am EDT
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By Michael Martina and Maxim Duncan

GAOMI, China (Reuters) - Chinese Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan unexpectedly called for the release of jailed compatriot Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, having come under fire from rights activists for not speaking up for him.

The author, a portly 57-year-old whose adopted pen name Mo Yan means "don't speak", said he had read some of Liu's literary criticisms in the 1980s, but that he had no understanding of Liu's work once it had turned towards politics.

"I hope he can achieve his freedom as soon as possible," Mo told reporters on Friday in his hometown of Gaomi in the northern province of Shandong, in bold remarks likely to embarrass Beijing which has lauded his victory and denigrated Liu's prize.

Liu should be able to research his "politics and social system", Mo said without elaborating

A number of dissidents and other writers have said Mo was unworthy of winning as he had shied away from commenting on Liu's plight. They have also denounced him for commemorating a speech by former paramount leader Mao Zedong.

But Mo, whose real name is Guan Moye, shot back at those criticisms.

"I believe that the people who have criticized me have not read my books," he said. "If they had read my books they would understand that my writings at that time took on a great deal of risk and were under pressure.

"Many of the people who have criticized me online are Communist Party members themselves. They also work within the system. And some have benefited tremendously within the system," he added.   Continued...

Chinese writer Mo Yan gestures during a news conference in his hometown of Gaomi, Shandong province October 12, 2012. Chinese Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan said on Friday that he hoped the jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, can "achieve freedom soon". REUTERS/Jason Lee