PEN Renews Calls for Liu Xiaobo’s Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York City, December 7, 2009—Writers in the United States and China today renewed their appeals for the immediate and unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested one year ago and is facing a possible 15-year prison term, calling the continued detention of the renowned dissident writer and PEN member “a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of expression” that “only reinforces doubts about China’s commitment to the rule of law.”
Liu Xiaobo, an internationally-recognized literary critic and political activist, was taken from his home on December 8, 2008, on the eve of the release of Charter 08, a groundbreaking manifesto and petition calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China. He was held for six and a half months under “residential surveillance” at an unknown location before he was formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for his participation in the charter’s creation.
His pretrial detention period has been extended three times as police have sought to build a case against him, questioning and raiding the homes of colleagues and harassing many of the original 300 signatories to Charter 08. Liu Xiaobo is still being held at Beijing Detention Center No. 1, and there has been no announcement of a trial date. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Chinese citizens have signed the Charter 08 petition despite the pressure on the document’s creators and supporters.
“In the year that Liu Xiaobo has been in prison, Chinese authorities successfully suppressed all public observations of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, stifled popular demonstrations in Xinjiang, staged elaborate celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Chinese communist rule, and orchestrated events surrounding President Obama’s visit to restrain dissident voices and restrict the free exchange of information and ideas,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs of PEN American Center. “These actions speak volumes about the state of freedom of expression in China. The continuing detention of Liu Xiaobo, who has worked tirelessly within the Chinese system since the mid-1980s to win political and human rights reforms, puts a particularly poignant and compelling human face on the Chinese government’s approach and policies. We condemn his continued detention unequivocally and continue to call on authorities to release him immediately.”
Liu Xiaobo is a past president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), a center of the international writers’ organization that is doing on the ground advocacy for the right to freedom of expression inside of China.
“Arresting Liu Xiaobo on the eve of Human Rights Day last year was a direct hit on those who had been expecting the current Chinese regime to improve its human rights record in some way after the Beijing Olympic Games,” commented Yu Zhang, ICPC’s Executive Secretary and Writers in Prison Committee Coordinator. “A year later, in the absence of strong international protests, the situation has become even worse. The authorities recently extended Liu’s detention and continue to reject the medical parole applications of two of our PEN colleagues who have been seriously ill in prison. We therefore call on the international community to press even more strongly for their release.”
Five other PEN members are currently jailed in the country, including Shi Tao, Du Daobin and Zhang Lin, who spent four and a half years in prison before his early release on August 12, 2009. Zhang was detained again by the Public Security Bureau of Bangbu City in Anhui Province on December 3 for speaking with foreign media on behalf of his other PEN colleagues in prison.
Yang Tongyan (pen name Yang Tianshui) and Zhang Jianhong, two other ICPC members serving long prison sentences, are both suffering from serious ailments. Yang has been hospitalized in Nanjing Prison in Jiangsu Province with a fever, and is suffering from tuberculous intestinal inflammation. Zhang is suffering from muscular dystrophy, a condition that has led to partial paralysis and continues to worsen despite his transfer to the General Hospital of Zhejiang Prison in Hangzhou City. Both have been imprisoned on subversion charges.
“It is cowardly for China to throw its intellectuals and writers into jail,” said Tienchi Martin-Liao, ICPC’s President. “In order to protect their right to freedom of expression, our brave colleagues are willing to risk their physical freedom. But the authorities cannot put all people who want to express their own thoughts into prison. We are too many.”
PEN American Center and the Independent Chinese PEN Center are among the 145 worldwide centers of International PEN, an organization that works to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere, to fight for freedom of expression, and represent the conscience of world literature. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit www.pen.org/china and www.chinesepen.org.
Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Yu Zhang, Independent Chinese PEN Center,+46-8-50022792