BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese Communist Party's propaganda chief issued congratulations Friday to Mo Yan, the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, saying the award shows the country's rising influence.
Propaganda chief Li Changchun wrote a letter to the China Writers Association saying the accolade "reflects the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China," the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
News of Mo's historic win was plastered across newspaper front pages Friday, in stark contrast to the response two years ago when imprisoned pro-democracy writer Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chinese government rejected that honor and said it was a desecration of the Nobel tradition.
Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending single-party rule and enacting democratic reforms titled Charter 08.
Mo is both a party member and vice president of the writers association, and human rights activists inside and outside China question whether his ties to the authorities have comprised his artistic and intellectual independence. China's authorities forbid opposition parties and maintain strict control over all media.
Famed artist and activist Ai Weiwei told The Associated Press on Friday that Mo was cooperating with a system that was "constantly poisoning" its people.
"They mock the ones who dare to raise their voice and opinion, and ignore the sacrifice some have made to gain that right. This is shameful. It is a shame for the Swedish Nobel Prize committee," Aid said.
Mo's win also won sweeping coverage in democratic Taiwan, which China claims to be part of its own territory.
The island's culture minister, Lung Ying-tai, on Friday called Mo "a man of humor" who has used that wit to avoid possible persecution.
Lung, a noted essayist, said the prize may help Chinese "open up their minds and hearts" and engage the world through literature.
Associated Press writer Alexa Olesen contributed to this report.