Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson

Books need a book number to get published and sold in China, although every store would have a little counter of banned or not approved books. But censorship rules have become stricter enforced over the years and when an autobiography of Li Rui, a retired party official, got confiscated at an airport, his daughter decided to take the case to court, writes journalist Ian Johnson in the New York Times.

Ian Johnson:

Ms. Li said that her father was ordered not to speak to foreign journalists nearly a decade ago and that he declined to join her lawsuit because of his age. But in February, he attended a meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Zhao Ziyang, the reformist party secretary sacked before the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. According to two people present who asked not to be identified, Mr. Li spoke of his book’s seizure and the party’s failure to establish a constitutional government.

Ms. Li, 65, who lives in the San Francisco area after a career in the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories, said the lawsuit was her personal quest to highlight that failure.

“I want people to think less like subjects and more like citizens,” she said. “I want people to take responsibility for changing China and not wait for higher-ups to reform the system.”

“I don’t expect to win,” she added, “but I want to draw attention to the custom office’s practices.”

A court in Beijing accepted her lawsuit in September after she established that she was still a Chinese citizen despite living abroad for the past 25 years. According to Chinese law, a hearing was supposed to have been held within three months. But the courts have issued a series of extensions, most recently this month.

“They can keep postponing the case,” said her lawyer, Xia Nan, “even though it’s not in keeping with the spirit of the law.”

Liu Junning, a scholar of political philosophy who has been blacklisted, said he did not think Ms. Li had much chance of getting an answer from the government.

“If the authorities want her to win, she can win,” he said. “But if she wins the case, it would be seen as an encouragement to others.”

Much more in the New York Times.

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