The director of Macau Literary Festival, Ricardo Pinto, said to local newspaper Hoje Macau that the cancelation of the presence of three writers in the event was decided after an “advise” by China´s Liaison Office in Macau.
The organiser announced four days before the start of the festival that writers Jung Chang, Suki Kim and James Church would not attend the festival, as their entry in Macau could not be guaranteed.
Helder Beja, program’s director of the festival, said that “we were informed, unofficially, that the entry of these writers in Macau could not be guaranteed.”
Beja also said that the organisers of the event did not want to put the authors in an awkward position and decided to cancel their presence in the festival.
Jung Chang is the author of the bestselling memoire Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, and two controversial biographies, Mao: The Unknown Story and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. The first two books are banned in China.
Another writer who dropped out of the festival is Korean-American Suki Kim, who published the award-winning novel The Interpreter and a New York Times nonfiction bestseller, Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. Kim is the only writer to have ever lived undercover in North Korea for immersive journalism.
The organisation also said that James Church, the author of five detective novels featuring a North Korean policeman, would not attend the event.
Without disclosing the source of the “advise”, Ricardo Pinto told the newspaper that the suggestion to cancel the presence of the three authors had not came from the Macau government but from someone in the Central People’s Government Liaison Office.
Ricardo Pinto also said to the newspaper that after what happened, the organisation of the event would be forced to consider the future continuation of the festival. “We need to understand if it makes any sense to continue with the festival and in what terms, circumstances and conditions.”
Secretaries for Security, Wong Sio Chak, and for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, denied any role on the cancelation of the presence of the writers.
Alexis Tam added that he felt sorry that the three authors were forced to give up being present in the festival.
The Central People’s Government Liaison Office Director Zheng Xiaosong told Macau TV channel TDM in Beijing that he didn’t know anything regarding this incident.
The president of the Culture Affairs Bureau (IC) Mok Ian Ian said that the bureau does not look into content when it grants local associations financial support for their activities.
Hélder Beja, the program’s director and co-founder of the festival, said in a brief that he will abandon his position in the Macau Literary Festival after the end of the 7th edition of the event on March 26.
“I consider I’m in no condition to continue on board under such scenario”, he said. “I’ll cease functions at the Macau Literary Festival on March 26, 2018, right after the ending of its 7th edition. I’ll remain on board and contribute to the making of its 7th edition, out of respect for our team and the many guests that are already on their way to Macau.”
The director of the Hoje Macau newspaper Carlos Morais José said in a editorial today that “we are all defeated: the organisers of the event, the public, the writers, the government, the Liaison Office, the Special Administrative Region of Macau and, above all, the international image of the city.”