Robert Dessaix and China
During Writers’ Week last month, many of the writers on the program were outraged to learn of the plight of their fellow guest Robert Dessaix. The celebrated author of A Mother’s Disgrace and Arabesques was scheduled to fly to China at the conclusion of Writers’ Week, having been invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to take part in Shanghai’s International Literary Festival, along with writers such as Les Murray and Alexis Wright. China then banned Dr Dessaix from entering the country because of his HIV status. Ironically or not (was there a punitive link here, Robert Dessaix wondered in public), he was replacing Frank Moorhouse, who had withdrawn from the festival because of the imprisonment of Chinese writers. Led by Michelle de Kretser and Charlotte Wood, one hundred Australian authors and commentators protested at this offensive and unenlightened decision, as did ABR and the Australian Society of Authors. China’s discriminatory policy was widely criticised, even in China.