I have deliberately steered away from politics and religion (I will NEVER steer away from sex!) in my blogs so far, but an item I saw on the news this morning has prompted me to give you my thoughts on an aspect of our writing lives that few of us ever need to give any thought to – our freedom of expression. In the West we take it for granted, but we should be aware of and very grateful for ALL of our freedoms.
CNN (Asia) woke me up here in Hong Kong this morning and told me that the New York Times had revealed that its computer systems and websites had been hacked – all its staff passwords had been stolen. Ok... Who would want to do this, and why?
A month or so ago the newspaper broke the story that Hu Jintau, the powerful Chinese leader who had ruled the country for the last ten years, and had ‘fought against corruption’ during that time, was leaving office with around $3 Billion dollars salted away in secret accounts and holdings in his family’s name. Whist it was denied by the Chinese leader, he did little to counter the allegations.
The NY Times hacking incident appears to be an attempt by the Chinese authorities to find out who was giving the reporters their information about this. Doubtless Mr. Hu would like a word with them! China is now officially acknowledged as the most corrupt country in the world – and the horrific tales of what happens to those who try to buck the system are far too distressing for this blog.
What I really want to tell you, is about the restrictions and problems facing writers in this enormously populous country, which is ‘developing’ at an alarming rate. Do not worry, my blog is not going to be a political rant, well, not so much, and next time it will revert to being a comical, bizarre, humorous rant. I just wanted to get this off my chest, and living close to the Chinese border – I felt I may have a view you may be interested in.
All newspapers are owned by the state, and censors check, and very often alter or remove anything that is in the least bit critical of the Government or of officials. Just lately, some brave journalists protested about this in Guangzhou, a large city just a few hundred miles from me. Writers of fiction fare no better. It is impossible (not to say illegal) to publish a book without getting approval from the censors. Needless to say, many writings which are in any way critical of the state or its leadership will not see the light of day. Mainland Chinese people flock over the border into Hong Kong just to buy books which they are not allowed to obtain in their own country. Countless writers and their families have been killed, jailed, and otherwise punished over the years for pursuing their craft, and many are still languishing in jails in dire conditions.
The country is now immensely wealthy, the people are good people and if only a slight change in direction could occur, it could become the envy of the world in ALL respects – and not just for the Pandas! The seeds are there, and the internet – which frightens the Chinese leadership so much – has already proved to be a force to reckon with in paving the way for transparency and justice in government. The Government should harness this and use it as an opportunity, rather than trying to curb and control it with tens of thousands of online censors watching out for any signs of dissent or criticism. One day they must realize that trying to mend large cracks in the system with scotch tape won’t work, and that they should work WITH the people to put things right rather than against them. The signs are there that the people will respond positively to such moves.
So, with all its faults, we are lucky to be living in our western democracies – not having to worry about a knock on the door in the middle of the night for tweeting ‘Obama sucks!’ Sorry for the ‘heavy’ tone of this weeks blog, but I live in Hong Kong and see the influence of China growing disturbingly each day – I just thought that those of you who are a bit more removed may like this insight, for a change.
Even with this heavyweight topic – you are not going to get away without the cats!!! – the overwhelming majority of me has decided to keep them! Please register for this blog over on the right to make sure you receive it regularly every week. Take care - and happy, free, and safe writing. Arthur.
Meet the author
Arthur Crandon is a lawyer, the boring office kind, not the exciting (and much better paid) courtroom type. He worked as a solicitor for a while before embarking on an interesting life overseas. He has spent most of his time in recent years in South East Asia, more recently in Hong Kong. Before that, Arthur lived and worked in the Philippine Islands.
He loves to fish, and play the piano – but spends most of his time writing, eating, drinking and sleeping
– usually, but not always, in that order.
His first book, Deadly Election, draws on his strange imagination and his
experiences, together with those of others, in a land that, beneath a veneer of civilisation, operates like the Wild West and is very
dangerous to innocent and gullible foreigners.
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