Xiaobo, the dissident who is currently serving 11 years in jail for "subversion", won the Nobel peace prize in 2010, sparking an angry reaction from the Chinese authorities. Mo Yan – whose real name is Guan Moye – took the literature Nobel on Thursday, prompting celebrations from state media, although prominent Chinese names have criticised the Nobel jury's decision to award the prize to a writer close to the establishment, with Ai Weiwei calling it "an insult to humanity and to literature".
The dissident artist added: "He has been very clearly pursuing the party's line and in several cases he has shown no respect for the independence of intellectuals."
But yesterday, speaking to reporters in his home town, Mo Yan said: "I hope he [Liu] can achieve his freedom as soon as possible." The Red Sorghum author went on to add that although he had read some of Liu's literary criticism in the 1980s, he "had no understanding of Liu's work once it had turned towards politics", Reuters reported.
A tweet from journalist Mark MacKinnon, East Asia correspondent for Canada' Globe and Mail, said he had spoken to Ai about Mo Yan's comments. "He says he's 'very surprised' to hear Mo Yan spoke out for Liu Xiaobo. 'If he really did... I'm very grateful to him.'"
Yesterday also saw Mo Yan tell press that he wanted "to express my gratitude to all friends who support me, as well as those who criticise me".
"My works are Chinese literature, which is part of world literature. They show the life of Chinese people as well as the country's unique culture and folk customs," he said. "Meanwhile, my novels described human beings in the broad sense. I wrote in the perspective of a human being. These works stand beyond regions and ethnic groups."