China’s ‘Fault Lines’: Yu Jie On His New Biography of Liu Xiaobo
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Chinese dissident Yu Jie at the National Press Club in Washington, January 18, 2012
Yu Jie is one of China’s most prominent essayists and critics, with more than thirty books to his name. His latest work is a biography of his friend, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, that was published in Chinese in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. It is not the first time he has stirred up controversy in China. Yu first gained fame in 1998 at age twenty-five for his book Fire and Ice, a series of biting, satirical essays on contemporary society. Within two years, he was already blacklisted by most publishers. An intensely moralistic person, he also angered many Chinese intellectuals for arguing that they failed to match actions to words.
In 2003, Yu converted to Christianity and increasingly complemented his provocative writing with political activism of his own. He was an early signer of Charter 08, the landmark human rights manifesto, and in 2010 cemented his position as a leading political critic by writing a biography of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in which he refers to his subject as “China’s best actor.” Last year, Yu completed a rough draft of his biography of Liu Xiaobo, who is now serving an eleven-year prison sentence. Authorities warned Yu that he too would be jailed if the book was published and put him under house arrest for several months. In January, he fled China with his wife and son for the United States, where he now resides.
I spoke to Mr. Yu at a church in the Washington area.