Xi Xi at the Newman Prize banquet.

Xi Xi won the 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature.

Xi Xi won the 2019 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature and travelled to the University of Oklahoma, in the United States, to receive it. She was nominated for the award by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, Associate Professor of English at Hong Kong Baptist University. At the awards ceremony, Dr. Ho gave a speech, which can be read here. Xi Xi’s acceptance speech, later published in an issue of Chinese Literature Today, is excerpted below:


“Back when I started writing, I could watch French New Wave films and masterpieces from the Italian and Japanese luminaries. I could read Chinese fiction and poetry from the May Fourth era, works that were mostly banned in the mainland and Taiwan. Of course, I could also read European and American poetry. I was fond of Auden’s writings on wartime China. When I was young, just like other young people at the time, I played the guitar and sang Bob Dylan songs, though America was so far away. As long as you didn’t take to the streets to protest, the Hong Kong colonial government allowed you to read and write whatever you wanted, although there was no democracy. I cherished this freedom—I think openness is important, even if you’re not a writer.”

“It was only when I wanted to travel abroad that I was confronted with an awkward problem. I wasn’t a British citizen, nor was I considered a Chinese citizen. I only had a CI. What is a CI? It was a Certificate of Identity that simply proved I was a permanent resident of Hong Kong. For overseas travel, the government issued this document as a measure of expediency. I used this document to travel to many places. It turned out I was merely a citizen, devoid of any nationality.”

“As 1997 approached, people wrestled with the question of identity. Many young people are still wrestling with this question today. Don’t assume that a change in governance is an easy fix. I have tried to convey my thoughts on this issue in various works of fiction. I think that fiction can best express my complex thoughts on this matter, given that there is more space, and there are more readers.”

Xi Xi & Jennifer Feeley. “Newman Prize for Chinese Literature Acceptance Speech 2019,” Chinese Literature Today, 8:1, 2019, 10-13.

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