Sections on democracy and privacy appear to be missing in Chinese edition of Permanent Record

Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower, has said the Chinese version of his recently published autobiography has been censored.

Snowden, who exposed massive US government surveillance programmes in 2013, posted on Twitter that parts of his book, Permanent Record, had been struck from the Chinese version published last week, in violation of his publishing agreement.

In response, Snowden posted images of the censored pages next to the original version and called on Chinese readers to help identify the missing sections.

Let us compile a correct and unabridged version of #PermanentRecord to publish freely online in Chinese, by assembling a cadre of translators to expose every shameful redaction the censors demanded, he posted. We will work in service to the greater Republic of Letters and a better internet.

Edward Snowden (@Snowden)

The Chinese edition of my new book, #PermanentRecord, has just been censored. This violates the publishing agreement, so I’m going to resist it the way I know best: it’s time to blow the whistle. You can help. Here’s how: (THREAD)

November 12, 2019

Snowdens autobiography traces his life from childhood to his time working for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. It also includes Snowdens thoughts on authoritarianism, democracy, and privacy all topics that came under the knife of Chinese censors.

In a chapter touching on the events of the Arab spring in 2011, the Chinese version skips over Snowdens observations as to why people have been driven to protest: The crowds were calling for an end to oppression, censorship, and precarity. They were declaring that in a truly just society, the people were not answerable to the government, the government was answerable to the people.

A large section on the nature of authoritarian states that followed was also censored, including a line that may have struck a chord with censors aware of criticisms of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, for his tight hold over the government and Chinese society.

Authoritarian states are typically not governments of laws, but governments of leaders, who demand loyalty from their subjects and are hostile to dissent, the original line read.

The changes to the Chinese version are not surprising given the extent to which foreign material is often censored before being published in the mainland. But Snowden has been hailed as a hero in China for exposing US government hacking toward China.

Chinese state media have reported on the lawsuit the US government has filed against Snowden and applauded the books publication for exposing the truth about US-government sponsored surveillance. State-run Global Times posted on its Weibo account last week that it would be choosing 10 people to receive copies of the Chinese version of Snowdens book.

Other censored sections include references to Chinas Great Firewall, used to block access to foreign websites, a mention of Hong Kongs nominal autonomy and the extent of Chinas surveillance capabilities.

Snowden wrote in a passage cut from the Chinese version: the mechanisms and machinery required for the constant collection, storage, and analysis of the billions of daily telephone and internet communications of over a billion people was utterly mind-boggling. At first I was so impressed by the systems sheer achievement and audacity that I almost forgot to be appalled by its totalitarian controls.

Passages that were not directly related to China were also deleted, including exposition on the right to privacy. Ultimately, saying you dont care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you dont care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, he wrote.

Images of the original and censored Chinese versions have been posted on the online forum Douban. Censorship of books like this is inevitable, one user wrote. Another posted: I didnt expect this book to be published in China, and didnt expect this to happen.

While most users were not bothered by the edits, one Douban commentator called on others not to buy the Chinese version but to read the original, unabridged one being pieced together by Twitter users helping Snowden.

Boycott the censored version in China and please read the original one on Snowdens Twitter, the user wrote.

Additional reporting by Lillian Yang



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