A bookstore in Shanghai has torn out pages of a dictionary containing sensitive words such as “Taiwan,” according to a customer.

Taylor Wang, who bought a copy of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary from the Foreign Languages Bookstore said that before he bought the dictionary, he found that the packaging had been opened. A staff member told him that “there were problems inside, so [we] opened it to deal with it.”

Only when he returned home did he discover that pages 931-934 were torn from the dictionary. Wang said: “I don’t know which words violated [the rules of] the authorities.”

Another Twitter user with the handle @redmeteor found that “the entry Taiwan in the dictionary which was defined as the ‘seat of government’ was censored.” The entry for Taiwan was on page 933 in a photo she provided.

It is unclear if the book came from the same store, but the dictionary entry was covered with a sticker and was purchased long ago, according to @redmeteor.

In Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, the full entry for Taiwan says: “island China off SE coast E of Fujian; belonged to Japan 1895–1945; since 1949 seat of (Nationalist) Republic of China.” The definition differs from the one in @redmeteor’s dictionary – the term “government” is missing.

Under the One-China principle, Beijing refuses to recognise the state of Taiwan as independent and insists that the island is an inalienable part of a single China.

An employee surnamed Zhu at the Beijing Foreign Languages Bookstore told the Washington Post that they have dealt with content violating the One-China principle in imported copies of the dictionary “in accordance with relevant regulations.” He added that it was a company decision and the same explanation would be given to customers if they ask.


Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.