Today marks six years since poet, writer, and political activist Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison “for allegedly inciting subversion of state power.” Chinese authorities handed Liu the jail term on Christmas in an apparent attempt to minimize international scrutiny on the writer’s trial. 

We revisit video and audio from a rally held in December 2009 shortly after Liu’s sentence. Writers and PEN members, including E.L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Edward Albee and A.M. Homes gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library to demand Liu’s release. The program featured short statements and readings. After the event, a PEN delegation delivered a letter to the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.

Since 1989, Liu Xiaobo has led calls for a truly broad-based, sustainable democratic movement in China. On December 8, 2008, Liu was arrested on the eve of the launch of Charter 08, a manifesto he had drafted calling for constitutional reform that was signed by thousands of Chinese citizens across all walks of life. More than a year later, on December 25, 2009, he was brought to trial and sentenced to 11 years in prison for seven sentences contained in his essays and Charter 08.  Liu, a founder and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010. His wife, Liu Xia, has been under extralegal house arrest since that day.