Brussels, May 24
TINTIN, THE intrepid boy reporter of comic strip fame, was at the centre of an embarrassing diplomatic incident last night after politically correct Chinese translators renamed his adventures in Tibet Tintin in Chinese Tibet in deference to Beijing's iron grip on the annexed region.
Known simply as Tintin in Tibet since 1957 when it was first published in the west, the translating "error" has caused untold problems for the Belgian publisher Casterman, which has just negotiated a lucrative deal to bring the adventures of the quiffed boy journalist to China for the first time.
The overly orthodox translation has caused a good deal of awkwardness for Belgium's foreign minister, Louis Michel, a self-styled champion of democracy, who was in Beijing on Tuesday to toast the historic deal only to discover that he had walked into a diplomatic minefield.
"I am not a translator or a publisher and I don't speak Chinese", was all the minister would say at the time, urging the matter to be settled privately between Casterman and their local partners, the China Children Publishing House.
But Casterman signalled on Wednesday after a hastily convened meeting in Beijing that it would be insisting that the word "Chinese" be dropped from all future editions. The publisher also sought to play down the seriousness of the incident.
"We have asked our partners to rectify the album, not for political reasons but simply to defend the authenticity of the original and they have agreed", Casterman's Willy Fadeur said.
Fanny Rodwell, the widow of Tintin's Belgian creator Herge,is reported to be a personal friend of the Dalai Lama and she did not attend the launch ceremony in Beijing for that reason.
Chinese censors have already ensured that the world's most populous country will be deprived of Tintin in the land of Soviets (anti-communist) and Tintin in the Congo(too racist, imperialist) although 21 of the original 23 albums will be available officially for the first time.
Written by: John Hardwood