U.S. Publishers Pledge to Address Chinese Censorship
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—As the International Publishers’ Association prepares to announce the admission of China to its membership at a meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 12 leading U.S. publishers have signed onto a PEN American Center pledge to monitor and address incidents of censorship in translations of books by foreign authors for the Chinese market.
The pledge, signed by major U.S. publishers including Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, W.W. Norton, and Grove Atlantic, affirms a commitment to assess whether any book for which the publisher controls Chinese publication rights includes political or historical content known to be censored in China. The publishers pledge to work with authors and trusted Chinese editors to minimize excisions and changes in the translation and to ensure that authors can make a conscientious decision on how to respond to such censorship.
“For Grove Atlantic and many US publishers, defending free expression is at the core of our values and of our business,” said Morgan Entrekin, CEO of Grove Atlantic. “As publishers, it is our job to ensure that diverse texts reach wide audiences to inform and inspire. This commitment is an articulation of our long-held commitment to creative freedom both within and beyond our borders. We are pleased to do our part to ensure that the principles we treasure here at home are intact as our operations and books reach across borders.”
Other signatories to the pledge include Archipelago Books, Beacon Press, Graywolf Press, New Directions Press, OR Books, Other Press, and Workman, as well as the Association of American Publishers’ International Freedom to Publish Committee.
A May 2015 report by PEN American Center revealed that many foreign authors, agents, and publishers have not paid close attention to what happens to their books when published in China, to the point where many are not even aware that they have been censored. Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship made waves ahead of the publishing industry’s largest American trade show, BookExpo America, where China was the 2015 international guest of honor. The issue of censorship of foreign works in translation arises as China’s book market, already the world’s second-largest and valued at approximately $18 billion, continues to grow at a rapid pace.
“The vibrant, varied literature published by these houses is perhaps the greatest tribute possible to the importance of free expression,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “By joining this pledge—a sort of Hippocratic Oath for the book industry as it expands into China—America’s publishers reaffirm their commitment to upholding free expression as they deepen their connections to the growing Chinese market and readership.”
Chinese censors regularly omit or sanitize mentions of politically sensitive topics as well as sexually explicit and LGBT-related materials for the domestic market. The purpose of the publishers’ pledge is to help ensure that foreign authors can make informed decisions about how to respond to such censorship, understanding the nature of the changes that would be imposed. PEN American Center has also prepared a set of background materials for authors, helping them to understand the context and process of Chinese censorship and how it may affect their work.
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,200 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide.