• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Frankfurt Book Fair to open amid censorship row

AFP · 11 Oct 2009, 10:37

Published: 11 Oct 2009 10:37 GMT+02:00

In mid-September, a symposium organised ahead of the world's biggest book fair generated fireworks with two dissident Chinese intellectuals initially invited and subsequently "de-programmed" owing to protests from Beijing.

Following a German uproar, the pair were finally asked again to attend, causing part of the official Chinese delegation to storm out.

China's ambassador to Germany, Wu Hongbo, called the action by the fair's hosts "unacceptable", and said it was "not an expression of respect for their Chinese partners".

But Herbert Wiesner, head of the German chapter of the writer's defence organisation PEN, said that "Chinese organisers have mistaken themselves for state censors. It's frightening."

He called this year's fair "a balancing act".

In Berlin last week, fair director Jürgen Boos said organisers had known there would be protests.

"There is no doubt there is censorship in China. We are far from a democracy. But when the contract was signed with Beijing three years ago, we stipulated there would be complete freedom of expression," he said.

Less than half of the 500-odd events with a Chinese theme will be organised by Beijing, he explained.

Dozens of non-governmental organisations, many of which are human rights groups, will be also represented in Frankfurt. They will not be ignored when Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurates the fair on Tuesday.

She is opening the event together with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping.

Also invited are representatives from Tibet and from China's Uighur Muslim minority, two sources of clashes in recent months. They will include the Uighurs' exiled leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

Both groups say they are subjected to political, cultural and religious repression in China.

But Boos stressed that "our role is not political, it is meant as a platform for the freedom of expression."

"We will authorise all forms of demonstration allowed in Germany," he added.

The book fair is used to controversy. Last year's guest was Turkey and it too was taken to task for curbing freedom of expression. In 2007, Spain's Catalonia region was guest of honour -- Catalan is one of four official languages in the country -- and snubbed authors writing in Spanish, even if they lived in the Catalan capital

Barcelona.

China is not a major force in international publishing meanwhile, with relatively few works translated from or into its main languages, and business is the main function behind the Frankfurt fair.

Some 6,900 exhibitors from around 100 countries are to gather in Frankfurt until Sunday, around 400 fewer than last year, and each publisher has trimmed the size of its participation.

"The UK editorial presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week will be sharply reduced from its usual levels, with US editors expected to be even fewer on the ground," the trade publication The Bookseller forecast.

Story continues below…

"It's likely to be a quieter fair anyway as the large firms in the US are unlikely to be coming, and possibly large firms elsewhere outside Germany too, and they tend to be the ones pushing up prices," noted a British publisher who asked to remain anonymous so as not to offend partners.

Other participants said they could not remember the last time that Frankfurt's big hotels still had rooms available a few days before the fair opened.

Last year, it welcomed 300,000 visitors.

Another focus of this year's edition will be electronic books after the Internet distributor Amazon.com launched an international version of its e-book reader Kindle.

Half of the sector professionals questioned by fair organizers estimated that digital book sales in 2018 would be greater than those of paper-based copies.

Publishers are trying to figure out how to make money from the trend, with many web surfers already accustomed to downloading content for free.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

German broadcaster sues Turkey over confiscated video
Akif Cagatay Kilic. Photo: DPA

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Monday it had filed a civil complaint after a Turkish minister's office confiscated a taped video interview with him.

Germany's 'James Bond' goes on trial over tax evasion
Werner Mauss. Photo: DPA.

Germany's former top spy, Werner Mauss, went on trial on Monday accused of hiding millions of euros from authorities.

Germany holds first national 'mermaiding' championship
Photo: DPA

Ariel would be proud.

Gallery
15 pics that prove Germany is totally enchanting in autumn
The Max-Eyth-See in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

As summer fades into a distant memory and you start to begrudge trading Birkenstocks for boots, these pictures may help change your perspective on the new chill in the air.

Left politician who smuggled refugee could lose immunity
Diether Dehm. Photo: DPA.

Die Linke (Left Party) politician Diether Dehm could lose his immunity as an elected official after he admitted to smuggling a refugee into Germany.

Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record in Berlin marathon win
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,511
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd