Beijing ban on Japanese books 'may spread'

Books by Japanese authors and titles about Japanese topics have been removed from bookshops in Beijing, and authorities are pressuring Chinese publishers not to translate and publish Japanese content as tensions escalate between the two countries over a territorial dispute.   

On 14th September Japan renewed claims to the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China. Shortly after, officials at the Beijing Municipal Press and Publications Bureau—the body that oversees publishing in the capital—told Chinese publishers to “refrain from releasing and selling books related to Japan”. The body has also demanded a halt to any books written by Japanese authors—as well as books related to Japan—planned to be published in China.  

On 21st September, Japanese-themed titles were removed from the shelves at Wangfujing Bookstore, one of Beijing’s biggest bookshops, including Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, a bestseller in China. Chinese publishing sources say many bookshops in Beijing have followed suit.        

Thus far, the book ban includes books published or imported to the Beijing district, but some Japanese publishers have reported that the banning of content has spread to outside of the Chinese capital.

Terrie Lloyd, an Australian/New Zealand dual national who has lived in Japan for 29 years and is c.e.o. of publisher Metropolitan KK, said he expects the ban to spread, claiming his company had already seen censorship: “On Friday [21st September] our sister company Metropolis tried to post in Chinese on a major blogging site an article about ancient fossils in Gifu, only to have the posting removed a mere 10 minutes later by the hosting firm itself.”

The countries are bitterly embroiled over ownership of a string of small islands off China’s eastern coast following Tokyo’s decision to nationalise the islands. The decision sparked huge protest in China—some violent—directed at Japanese citizens, property and even Japanese diplomatic offices.

China has previously banned several Japanese publications and restricts some internet access to servers in Japan. Earlier this year, a Japanese manga series created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata was banned in several Chinese cities because the stories could ruin the “physical and mental health” of the young, authorities said.