There has been talk for a few days that Chengdu gave notice in advance that Hugo Administration might be subject to local laws. I’ve been reluctant to support it without proof, but that has now come through (thanks Nibedita Sen on Blue Sky). In Progress Report #2 on page 5 it says the following:
Eligible members vote according to the “one person, one vote” rule to select Hugo Award works and individuals that comply with local laws and regulations. The Chengdu organizing committee will review the nominated works and validate the votes.
Emphasis mine there.
So I guess we were warned.
FWIW, I don’t think there needs to have been direct government interference here. Having lived in the UK through Section 28 (the original “Don’t say gay” law), I have seen first hand how ordinary people, often out of fear, willingly implement, and often go well beyond, censorship required by government. Pressure from sponsors may have played a role, and the Chengdu committee may simply have been afraid for their safety if they did not do this. From the way Dave McCarty is behaving, I suspect they are also afraid of admitting to having done it.