China: Order to Restrict Children’s Books a Troubling Step Toward Ideological Conformity
NEW YORK – The Chinese government’s reported introduction of new measures to restrict children’s access to books written by foreign authors is the next step in China’s growing restrictions on free thought and free expression, PEN America stated today.
Both the South China Morning Post and the Financial Times reported late last week that Chinese regulators had given instructions to publishers to limit publication of children’s books written by foreign authors. The new order, which has not been made public, would reportedly reduce the number of foreign-authored children’s book titles available in China, from thousands to only a few hundred. One source for the Morning Post report, a mainland publishing official, stated that the regulation was intended to ensure ideological conformity with Communist Party dogma.
The reported regulatory order comes days after the announcement that Taobao, a prominent Chinese online shopping site, would prohibit the sale of all foreign publications on its site from all vendors not officially licensed by the government, starting March 10.
PEN America has documented the tightening restrictions on access to foreign writing within China in several reports. This includes the practice of censorship of Chinese translations of the works of foreign authors, as PEN America documented in its May 2015 report “Censorship and Conscience”; and China’s harsh restrictions of access to foreign journalism, which have tightened under the tenure of President Xi Jinping, as documented in PEN America’s September 2016 report “Darkened Screen.” PEN America’s most recent report, “Writing on the Wall,” examined the detention and forced disappearances of several Hong Kong booksellers known for selling titles banned in mainland China.
“China’s efforts to restrict access to foreign children’s literature suggest that President Xi is stretching to new lengths to try to control what citizens—especially younger generations—read, think, and say,” said James Tager, Free Expression Programs Manager at PEN America. “Preventing children from reading foreign authors will only narrow their worldview. Unfortunately, this appears to be the goal of such regulation.”
PEN America, a literature and free expression advocacy organization, also has a long history of advocating against book bans within the United States. This advocacy includes the work of its longstanding Children’s and Young Adult Book Authors Committee, which supports writers and librarians whose books have been banned or challenged. PEN America’s most recent report on book banning in the United States was its September 2016 report “Missing from the Shelf.”
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
CONTACT: Sarah Edkins, Director of Communications: [email protected], +1 646.779.4830