2010/07/23

China's most popular blogger admits to restraint

HONG KONG, July 22, 2010 (AFP) - China's most popular blogger, Han Han, famous for poking fun at prominent figures and officials, on Thursday hinted even he has had to bite his tongue in a tightly controlled media landscape.

The 27-year-old school dropout and champion rally driver was named by TIME magazine this year as one of the world's 100 most influential people, putting him in the same league as US President Barack Obama and pop star Lady Gaga.

With his charming good looks and characteristic literary wit, the celebrity rebel's blog has registered more than 300 million hits, making him the most popular blogger in China -- and possibly the world.

Despite his outspokenness, Han admitted Thursday that even he had to follow rules in China's strict publishing industry to make his voice heard.

"It's about making compromise all the time. It's not just about the government," he told reporters at the Hong Kong Book Fair, when asked about his hugely successful bi-monthly magazine "Party" launched earlier this month.

"There is a censorship system following the publication of the magazine. Sometimes, self-censorship is more stringent than any other type of censorship," he added.

Han is widely portrayed as an icon for China's "Post-80s", a generation born into the country's economic boom who are rebellious, apolitical and status-obsessed.

Now China's top-earning author with more than 10 novels under his belt, Han said the tone of his new magazine was milder than the sarcasm-filled critiques posted on his blog.

"If you want those critiques, go to my blog."

All 500,000 copies of the magazine's first issue, which included articles by other writers, sold out just four days after its release, government newspaper China Daily reported, smashing sales records for local booksellers.

Han said he would donate one million yuan (147,000 US dollars) from the sales to a charity, possibly an animal rights group.

Han shot to fame in 2000 after he published "The Triple Gate," a novel based on his experience as a high school dropout in Shanghai and which mocked China's rigid education system.

His writing has also touched on China's "Internet commentators," who are hired by the government to skew public opinion by posting pro-state views online.