STOCKHOLM (AP) — This year's Nobel literature winner Mo Yan, who has been criticized for his cozy relationship with China's Communist Party, defended censorship Thursday as something as necessary as airport security checks.
He also suggested he has no plans to join an appeal calling for the release of the jailed 2010 Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo.
Mo has been criticized by human rights activists for not being a more outspoken defendant of freedom of speech and for being a member of the Communist Party-backed writers' association.
His comments Thursday, made in Stockholm, appear unlikely to soften his critics' views toward him.
Awarding him the prize has also brought criticism from previous Nobel winners. Herta Mueller, the 2009 literature laureate, called the jury's choice of Mo a "catastrophe" in an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter last month. She also accused Mo of protecting China's censorship laws.
Mo said he doesn't feel that censorship should stand in the way of truth but that any defamation, or rumors, "should be censored."
"But I also hope that censorship, per se, should have the highest principle," he said in comments translated by an interpreter from Chinese into English.
Mo, a Communist party member and vice president of China's official writers association, spoke at a news conference in Stockholm, where he is spending several days before receiving his prestigious prize in an awards ceremony next Monday.
Addressing an issue that is extremely sensitive for China's authoritarian Communist regime, Mo likened censorship to the thorough security procedures he was subjected to as he traveled to Stockholm.
"When I was taking my flight, going through the customs ... they also wanted to check me — even taking off my belt and shoes," he said. "But I think these checks are necessary."
Mo also dodged questions about fellow writer and compatriot Liu Xiaobo, who won the Peace Prize in 2010 but who remains in prison.
Although he has previously said he hopes Liu will be freed soon, he refused to elaborate more on the case.
"On the same evening of my winning the prize, I already expressed my opinion, and you can get online to make a search," he said, telling the crowd that he hoped they wouldn't press him on the subject of Liu.
Earlier this week, an appeal signed by 134 Nobel laureates, from peace prize winners like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Taiwanese-American chemist Yuan T. Lee, called the detention of Liu and his wife a violation of international law and urged their immediate release.
But Mo suggested he had no plans of adding his name to that petition. "I have always been independent. I like it that way. When someone forces me to do something I don't do it," he said, adding that has been in his stance in the past decade.
Mo is to receive his Nobel prize along with the winners in medicine, physics, chemistry and economics.
The Nobel Peace Prize is handed out in a separate ceremony in Oslo on the same day.
Associated Press writer Gary Peach in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.