BERLIN — Organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair worked for 15 years to secure China as the guest of honor at their five-day showcase of global trends and best sellers that opens to industry delegates Wednesday. Organizers are steeling themselves for lively discussions and the possibility of protests at the fair, which boasts about 6,900 exhibitors from more than 100 countries.
In her speech inaugurating the 61-year-old event, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "There can be — and I am sure there will be — no taboos in discussions" at the fair. But the director of the German Book Sellers Industry, Gottfried Honnefelder, went one step further insisting that: "We view freedom of opinion as an inalienable right."
In September, members of the Chinese delegation walked out of a pre-book fair symposium after two authors they had insisted not attend showed up anyway. Yet China's appearance this year is expected to generate the most buzz, given censorship in China. The September spat erupted when dissident writers Dai Qing and Bei Ling attended the symposium, despite a Chinese attempt to block them.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping praised the fair for presenting a chance for an exchange in learning about each other's cultures.