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Word crimes

Fearing that events in the Middle East may spark a "Jasmine Revolution," Chinese authorities are cracking down on dissident writers. But some are still willing to speak out

Ai Weiwei’s arrest this week is evidence of the Chinese government’s increasingly tough stance on dissident artists. Photo: Marie A-C

I first met Murong Xuecun—the Chinese author and internet sensation, whose debut novel had an estimated readership of five million—late last year in Beijing. Murong, 37, was in town to receive the prestigious 2010 People’s Literature Prize and he planned to use the platform to give an explosive speech on the absurdity of censorship. Chinese writing today, he was to declare, is akin to a “mental disorder.”

Murong never delivered the speech that he had spent all night preparing. As…

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