China Censors the World

On August 28, 2000 an article in the "New York Times" by David D. Kirkpatrick illustrated a new example of one of the oldest forms of censorship and book banning. Thousands of copies of "The Clinton Years," a new book by a former official White House photographer, were confiscated by Chinese customs officials as the books were being prepared for shipment from a bindery in southern China. In effect this bans the book from distribution in the United States and the entire world.

The book was reportedly seized because, among its 227 black-and-white photographs, there was a picture of President Clinton clasping hands and chatting at the White House with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese fears the lasting influence the Dalai Lama has over the Tibetans even after his flight to India over 40 years ago. They are currently engaging in a fiercely repressive campaign against the survival of anything Tibetan, and are once again burning books, closing monastaries and banning the use of the Tibetan language.

"This is a very stupid time to do this," said Patricia Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers and a former member of Congress. "To exercise political censorship, dealing with freedom of religion, over a book about the president of the United States -- that is just not very wise right now." However, Zhang Yuanyuan, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, consulted with Chinese cultural officials and reported that China maintained a consistent ban on the production of printed material deemed to be politically sensitive, such as depictions of the Dalai Lama, and even in books intended solely for export. He continued, "It is the consistent policy of the government to actually control the political content of printed materials. Such books were never allowed to be printed on Chinese soil, and, if in the past they were not intercepted at the border, it was just a coincidence."

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