Banned book on sale in Hong Kong
A controversial book that challenges Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's image as a man of the people has been published in Hong Kong. Prominent Chinese dissident and best-selling author Yu Jie was briefly detained last month by the police in mainland China, who warned him not to publish his new book titled "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao," but Yu was determined to release the book in Hong Kong and possibly North America in the Chinese language.
In his latest book, Yu is critical of Wen Jiabao's image as "Grandpa Wen," a reformist who sympathizes with the people but is held back by pressure from certain interest groups. An excerpt from the book says: "There is only one objective for all that Wen Jiabao has done since he took the reins, and it is to 'act'. He knows that this old car -- the Chinese Communist Party -- is going to fall apart." Clifford Coonan from The Independent says there is little new research in Yu's book, but to openly express negative opinion on the Chinese premier is rare.
Yu explained that he wrote the book to promote free speech and provoke critical thinking on China's political leaders. In an interview with BBC's Chinese service, Yu said: "Wen Jiabao and [Chinese President] Hu Jintao are like the two sides of a coin. They are on a tandem bike, heading in the same direction. I think they are playing the good-guy-bad-guy routine, like the harsh-dad-loving-mum sort of thing.
"But they share the same goal, which is to strengthen their power base. I think they have more in common than differences. That's why I don't agree with the unrealistic view held by many Western scholars and China observers, as well as many Chinese people, that Wen is a reformist, that he is more open. I have a different view, which may not necessarily be the right one, but needs to be voiced."
The book's main distributor is Greenfield Bookstore, but since launching in Hong Kong yesterday, the book is available in more than 30 local outlets, including Mongkok and Causeway Bay's second-floor bookstores (read more in our Uniquely Hong Kong things to do when it rains). It is not yet available in big chain bookstores, where it is waiting to be fully reviewed.
The book is published by Bao Pu, head of the Hong Kong publisher, New Century Press. On the likelihood of reprimand by the Chinese authorities, Bao said: "Criticizing the leader is a very serious criminal case. It would be very likely for [Yu] to be punished severely like the way Liu Xiaobo was."