Since its release in September, Permanent Record, the autobiography of American whistleblower Edward Snowden, has received worldwide attention. But today, in a turn that should only guarantee further publicity, Snowden wrote on his official Twitter account that the simplified Chinese version of his book was being censored.
On his personal Twitter account, Snowden described the perceived censorship as a violation of his publishing agreement and made the changes available for viewing.
Snowden said, “I asked to see a copy of censored passages, and was given a list of a few of the worst examples. I’m going to post them right here on Twitter, and we’re going to translate them and expose exactly what the censors were trying to hide,” he said.
Over a thread, Snowden cited several edited examples from the book which had been radically changed.
For example, in one passage the English text reads: “Throughout the Middle East, innocent civilians were living under the constant threat of violence, with work and school suspended, no electricity, no sewage. In many regions, they didn’t have access to even the most rudimentary medical care.”
However, in the simplified Chinese book, the sentence of “innocent civilians were living under the constant threat of violence, with work and school suspended” was erased.
Another original quote read: “The point of my researching this widely dispersed material was to do more than merely report on how China was hacking us, however. My primary task was to provide a summary of the IC’s assessment of China’s ability to electronically track American officers and assets operating in the region.”
However, in the simplified Chinese version, Snowden’s claims were reduced to, “the point of my researching this widely dispersed material was to do more than merely report on China.”
Snowden said there would be further changes to display and that he would expose the censored text on his Twitter account to let readers know “what the censors were trying to hide.”
He also thanked his readers who can read Chinese and said,”We won’t know about until we can get a hardcopy of the simplified edition up online, but let’s start correcting the corrections. Thank you so much for helping Chinese readers!”
It was noted that these amendments were only made in the version produced in simplified chinese, the written language in mainland China, but not in the version produced in traditional Chinese, the written language in Hong Kong.
Permanent Record was published by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, though it was unclear if they were responsible for the alleged changes or if it was another entity along the production and distribution line. We are reaching out to Metropolitan for comment.