China Continues Crackdown on Writers: No More Pen Names

Posted on January 26, 2015

China is cracking down on writers once again. The government tightly controls the traditional press in the country, but has been frustrated in its attempts to control social media. In China, many writers and authors use pen names to avoid the censors, especially when they discuss political and controversial issues that could make them a target of the censors and land them in jail.

The New York Times reports that China now requires that all writers use their real names when being published in print and when writing online, even if they are writing for free. Famous authors still use pen names, but their identities are easily ascertainable.

The law is aimed at dissidents, bloggers and those that write content that the government deems inappropriate. Everything is fair game for the censors, from political opinions to racy novels. All can be banned and the authors can be jailed -- or worse. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, film and Television issued the guidelines this month. Those that use pen names online can continue to use them, but now the government can track them.

The next phase of the government's plan is to start enforcing the real name registration efforts on social media. In order to use video hosting sites, microblogging sites like Twitter and instant messaging tools, users will have to provide their real names and contact information which will be available to the government.

Free speech advocates are extremely alarmed by the crackdown, which they say is designed to monitor what its citizens read, write, text and film. The government says it aims to crack down on what it deems to be "unhealthy" activities such as spreading rumors and terrorism. Of course what they really object to is criticism of the current government and advocating free speech.

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