MURONG XUECUN IS the pen name of Hao Qun, a novelist and the most famous of a wave of Chinese writers who have become publishing sensations in the past decade due to their canny use of the internet. Murong is one of the most outspoken critics of Chinese censorship, and accumulated approximately 8.5 million followers on Sina Weibo – ‘China’s equivalent to hybrid of Facebook and Twitter’ – before government censors shut down his accounts in May 2013. After graduating from Beijing’s University of Political Science and Law in 1996, Murong worked briefly as a lawyer, before turning his attention to writing on microblogs and BBS (bulletin board system) publishing forums. His debut novel, Chengdu Please Forget Me Tonight (2002) was initially published on one of the largest of these blogs. Its success amongst Chinese ‘netizens’ propelled him to international success; in 2009 it was translated into English as Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu (Allen & Unwin), with the manuscript longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008. The novel is narrated by an unpleasant character called Chen Zhong and evokes an urban culture of self-indulgence and betrayal. Murong has also written short story collections and narrative non-fiction, notably The Missing Ingredient (China Peace Publishing House, 2010), a work of undercover investigative reporting about a pyramid scheme that won the People’s Literature Prize. Following the government’s complete shut down of his internet presence in 2013, Murong became a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times, reporting from within China; he has also written for the Guardian and Foreign Policy. In 2014, Murong was a writer-in-residence at the University of Sydney. In ‘Wake up while the flowers are blossoming’, published by Griffith Review, Murong continues to act as an invaluable mediator between China and the West in his descriptions of the vibrant culture of cyber-activism percolating on other side of the ‘great firewall of China’.
This interview took place on Saturday 5 September with the assistance and contributions of Murong’s partner, Dr Wang Ling, who translated his responses. Any changes in speaker and language have been noted.
Already a subscriber? Sign in here
If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at email@example.com