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Hillary book is changed by China publisher

A Chinese woman looks at a copy of Hillary Clinton's memoir, "Living History," at a bookstore in Beijing.
A Chinese woman looks at a copy of Hillary Clinton's memoir, "Living History," at a bookstore in Beijing.
Ng Han Guan, Associated Press

BEIJING — The Chinese call it a matter of mere "technical changes." Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton calls it censorship. Her American publisher calls it breach of contract and wants it fixed — now.

The former first lady pronounced herself "amazed and outraged" Wednesday that politically sensitive material had been rewritten or removed from the Chinese-language version of her memoir, without the knowledge of her or her U.S. publisher, Simon & Schuster.

The 466-page Chinese edition of "Living History" — a best seller — does not contain Clinton's comments about the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests. A segment about Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu is reduced to almost nothing and refers to him as a spy awaiting sentencing.

At least eight other segments were changed or deleted.

"Unbelievable!" the New York senator told The Associated Press outside an Senate hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

Asked why she thought the censorship occurred, Clinton replied: "Why does any government keep information? They want to control the opinions and minds of their citizens." She called such an attempt "increasingly futile" in the Internet era.

Still, such retooling is standard procedure in communist China, where the government keeps all media on a short leash and sweeps away anything that could threaten its absolute authority or conflict with its version of how the world works.

"We have made technical changes to the content in some parts of the book in order to win more Chinese readers," acknowledged Liu Feng, the deputy editor-in-chief of Yilin Publishing House, which published the Chinese version.

"But," Liu insisted, "the changes do not hurt the integrity of the book."

They're certainly not hurting its sales. "Living History" is on at least its fourth printing since the memoir was released in China Aug. 3. More than 200,000 copies have been printed, and bookstores in Beijing, the capital, report brisk sales.

Simon & Schuster, the book's U.S. publisher, has informed the Chinese publisher that its actions are a "breach of contract," it said in a statement Wednesday.

"Yilin Press represented their edition to be a complete and accurate translation of the English text. In fact, numerous changes and deletions were made to portions of the text dealing with Senator Clinton's views about China and her travels there," Simon & Schuster said.

It said it had demanded "immediate recall of the inaccurate version and the republication of the book with a faithful and accurate translation."

Simon & Schuster's Web site posted a page flagging the changes in red and providing English and Chinese versions of what was missing or altered.

"We were shocked to learn of this problem and wanted to provide a quick and accurate way for Chinese readers to read the missing passages while we sort out the legal issues with Yilin," said Carolyn Reidy, president of Simon & Schuster.

One section in the Chinese version says Wu was detained and awaiting sentencing for spying. The original version says Wu is a "human rights activist who had spent 19 years as a political prisoner in Chinese labor camps," according to the Web site.

In a section eliminated from the Chinese translation, Clinton says she is "haunted by the events at Tiananmen." Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed civilians were killed near the square when troops and tanks smashed their way into the center of Beijing to crush the protests on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

"(Former President Clinton) and I debated whether we should attend a ceremony in Tiananmen Square, where Chinese authorities had used tanks to forcibly suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in June of 1989," Clinton wrote.

Simon & Schuster released the book in the United States on June 9. First-day sales topped 200,000.

Liu said Yilin had received an English copy of the book on June 2 and rushed to put out a translation to beat counterfeiters.

"It is our fault that we did not contact Simon & Schuster and inform them about the changes in time," he said. "The only thing in our mind at that time was to get the book published as soon as possible."

One vendor peddling counterfeit publications at the entrance of a Beijing pedestrian underpass Wednesday was selling the memoir for $1.45 instead of the $3.60 at bookstores. But he was fresh out.

"The Hillary book is very popular," he said. "Come back Monday."