China to Force Authors to Provide Real Names When Publishing Online

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By AMY QIN January 27, 2015

15SINO-NAMES01-articleLargeHao Qun, known to most readers as Murong Xuecun, is one of many prominent Chinese writers to use a pen name.
Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

Zhou Shuren is widely regarded as one of China’s most influential 20th-century writers. But to most readers, he is known as Lu Xun, one of the more than 100 pen names the author used, often to evade the repercussions of provocative political views.

The longstanding Chinese tradition of using pen names persists on blogs and the Internet, as authors seek to separate their writerly personas from their real identities. In some cases — particularly when writings may be deemed controversial or delicate — pseudonyms have taken on greater importance, shielding authors from unwanted public or government scrutiny.

Guan Moye, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for works published under the name Mo Yan.

But that tradition has officially drawn the attention of the Chinese government.

In new guidelines on online literature made public this month by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the government called for a system that would require all authors to register their real names with publishing platforms on the Internet.

Under the guidelines, creators of online content will still be allowed to publish under pen names. But unlike before, when some writers registered accounts under fake names, websites will know exactly who is publishing what.

Linking the identities of authors with their writings online, the guidelines say, will encourage them to “take better responsibility” for their works as well as strengthen their “professional moral education and training.” The aim is to promote “healthy” online literature and to root out problems like plagiarism and poor quality, the guidelines state.

“It is very clear that the government is taking these measures with the intention of suppressing online creativity,” the writer known as Murong Xuecun, whose real name is Hao Qun, said in an interview.


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