English PEN joins PEN International in warmly welcoming the early release of our Honorary Member Shi Tao.
PEN is delighted to announce the release of Chinese poet, journalist and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) Shi Tao, 15 months before the end of his 10-year sentence.
We welcome news of Shi Tao’s early release, at a time when there seem to be increasingly long shadows over freedom of expression in China. Shi Tao has been one of our main cases since his arrest in 2004. He is an Honorary Member of almost a dozen PEN centres, and he was one of the the WiPC’s first and most significant digital media cases. Shi Tao’s arrest and imprisonment, because of the actions of Yahoo! China, signalled a decade ago the challenges to freedom of expression of internet surveillance and privacy that we are now dealing with – Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee
Shi Tao was arrested on 24 November 2004 and sentenced on 27 April 2005 to 10 years in prison for ‘leaking state secrets abroad’.
The prosecution of Shi Tao was based on an email he sent to the editor of a New York-based website detailing media restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities prior to the 15th anniversary of the 3 June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Information supplied by the Internet Service Provider Yahoo! Inc. was used to convict him.
Shi Tao worked for the Changsha-based daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) until May 2004, when he became a freelance journalist and writer. He is a published poet, and is known for his social commentaries published on overseas Chinese language media such as Democracy Forum (www.boxun.com).
In 2008 Shi Tao’s poem ‘June’ was the focus of the PEN Poem Relay, a campaign to raise awareness about freedom of expression in China in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. Writers and poets around the world produced 127 translations of the poem in 100 languages which were published via a specialist website. He was also one of the fifty writers featured in ‘Beyond Bars: 50 Years of the PEN Writers in Prison Committee‘, a special anniversary edition of Index on Censorship published in 2010.
Shi Tao extends his thanks to all PEN colleagues who supported him during his long detention. He reports that he was treated relatively well in prison during the last few years, and wrote many poems, including ‘Song of October’ written from prison after he learned that Liu Xiaobo had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Song of October
A short poem at last seems like a tide of sounds
Momentary silence has attracted
Rough and clumsy footsteps of the bise in winter
Triumphal procession like a poem is somewhere
So many pairs of brave and nimble hands are
Playing quickly on the keyboards –
Song of the Earth, and Song of Freedom
“Is it the rustling of wind through the forests in the lush mountains?
Or the ominous thunder hidden on the summit of the snowy peak? ”
The connotation in a drop of ink is
A testimony on the last drop of blood shedding for the victory
His eyes are grim
And people are looking with him at the sky
Comes from afar, but not to end
Will become a festival for all the unfortunates and their friends
22 October 2010
Translated by Yu Zhang
Thank you to everyone who has taken action on behalf of Shi Tao since his arrest almost a decade ago – we really appreciate your support.