The authors of the book 中国农民调查 An Investigation of China’s Peasantry on the appalling lives and working conditions of China’s peasants have won the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. The book is currently banned in China, though easily available through the usual black-market outlets across the country, and the authors are currently spending much time in a courtroom defending themselves against one of the odious, corrupt parochial cadres who are the reason the book was written in the first place. The 50 000 euros they have won is about 515 000 rmb, more than what the average peasant would earn in a lifetime.
The first prize, worth 50,000 euro, was given to the Chinese authors Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao for their unprecedented and controversial book Survey of Chinese Peasants, (People’s Literature Publication Company, Beijing 2003, Chinese). The explosive text is the first thorough investigation into the economic, social and political conditions of the approximately 900 million Chinese peasants, which are almost unknown in the West. It describes the problems of despotism, of arbitrariness, of corruption, of violence which sometimes extends to murder, and lawlessness, along with unjust taxation, from which a large part of the rural population suffers. The book also shows how China’s enforced industrialisation is built largely upon the impoverishment of the Chinese peasantry. This book, compiled with immense courage despite enormous personal risk, swiftly became a best-seller in China. Several million copies were sold before the book was withdrawn from sale in governmental bookshops following an official directive, and now it is only obtainable in pirate form.