China′s most popular blogger winds down his ″Party″ | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 28.12.2010
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China's most popular blogger winds down his "Party"

China’s most popular blogger, Han Han, has decided to discontinue his magazine "Party", apparently due to problems with the publisher and printing house.

China's famous blogger and top earning author Han Han is just 28 years old

China's famous blogger and top earning author Han Han is just 28 years old

Though it has barely just begun, Han Han is putting to rest his literary magazine, "Party". Its first issue was released in July, 2010 and the second issue, planned for August, had been put on hold.

While there have been no official statements blaming the Chinese government and censorship, many observers suspect this is the real reason behind the shut-down.

"It may have been for bureaucratic reasons or political reasons, but I guess the government is not very interested in having a famous blogger and one of the most famous people in China leading a magazine or trying to push the limits of censorship because that is what he is doing on his blog," says Vincent Brossel of Reporters without Borders.

Members of Reporters Without Borders including Vincent Brossel (right) demonstrate for media freedom in Beijing

Members of Reporters Without Borders including Vincent Brossel (right) demonstrate for media freedom in Beijing

Too big to challenge?

Brossel suspects it was in the government's interest to put a hold to the magazine before it could become as popular as Han Han's blog. "Maybe a magazine would be a big challenge because it will be very hard on a weekly basis for the government to censor what he is writing and publishing. So I think they decided to use political pressure to stop the magazine before they have to go against it when it is already popular."

Han Han, who is a champion race-car driver and has also gone into singing, became famous for his critical blog and for his novels. His stardom began in 2000 with the release of the novel, "The Triple Gate", in which he criticizes China’s school system. His blog is among the most frequented in the world.

Icon for the new China

Understandable then that Beijing is edgy when it comes to the 28-year-old. Brossel believes while Han Han’s influence is far-reaching, the government does not have much to fear because, "Han Han is not a dissident. He is someone who is a sort of icon for the new China who is really successful – young, rich and trying to be influential. Han Han is also trying to improve things in china and is upset about the way the government is treating the bloggers and so many people in China."

Cover of the literary magazine Party

Cover of the literary magazine "Party"

Brossel says Han Han wants to play a role in changing his country, but he will never challenge the government the way Liu Xiaobo and his friends do, "because he’s not giving an alternative, he is just criticizing the authorities and he wants the government to improve certain policies. But he is not someone who is trying to organize people to create a political alternative."

Busy watchdogs

While watchdogs in China are constantly on the lookout and busy shutting down websites, the internet is still the most effective and popular way of spreading ideas. And younger generations are up to pace with ways of getting around much of the government’s censorship.

The Party was discontinued after only one issue

The "Party" was discontinued after only one issue

"Of course he will continue his blog because he is influential and also rich thanks to his blog. And also his power is that he is supported by millions of people. So the government cannot treat him like they treat Liu Xiaobo," Brossel believes. "It is quite a different case. I’m sure he will play his role to push the limits of the censorship and we expect that from him because he is inside the system but also trying to improve the way the Chinese can express themselves."

In the end, the Chinese government has not been known to flinch at money and power when it comes to enemies of the state. So for Han Han it will be critical to not step over that fine line.

Author: Sarah Berning
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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