China writers praise Mo Yan for dissident release call

BEIJING - An independent Chinese writer's group has welcomed calls by Nobel prizewinner Mo Yan for the early release of jailed fellow laureate Liu Xiaobo, but questioned his stance on freedom of speech.

Some dissidents accused Mo Yan of being a communist stooge after he won the literature award on Thursday.

But overseas supporters of Liu have welcomed comments by the 57-year-old writer, that he hoped the jailed dissident and 2010 peace prize laureate would be freed as soon as possible.

The Independent Chinese PEN Centre - run by exiles and domestic writers outside of state control - made a statement on its website Saturday backing Mo Yan's support for Liu, who is the honorary president of the organisation.

"Our organisation thanks Mo Yan for calling for Liu Xiaobo's freedom," the statement said.

It also urged Mo Yan to join the organisation in "focusing on freedom of speech and writing in China, especially with regards to other writers like Liu Xiaobo who have been jailed, and help them to recover their freedom as soon as possible".

Prominent critics of China's government, including the artist Ai Weiwei and the exiled former prisoner Wei Jingsheng, had earlier accused Mo Yan of being a sellout due to his cooperation with Chinese authorities.

The Independent Chinese PEN Centre "noted with regret" that Mo Yan had been "neglecting for a long time the PEN Centre's purpose of safeguarding the freedom of speech for writers".

It added: "There's a big contradiction between the realist tendencies of his works and the political personality of an official writer, and this has caused wide controversy after his winning of the Nobel Prize."

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