Next week, London will be playing host to a remarkable delegation of Chinese writers and publishers, all here for this year’s London Book Fair at which China is the Market Focus country. English PEN are greatly looking forward to welcoming our Chinese colleagues, to discovering new voices and new works, and to hosting award-winning authors Jung Chang and Bi Feiyu at our English PEN Literary Café.
However, as an organisation that seeks to defend and promote the freedom to write and the freedom to read, we of course share the concerns of other free speech and human rights organisations about the range of writers invited to the Book Fair and the way in which they have been selected. (To read our statement ‘PEN urges discussion of Chinese literature and censorship at London Book Fair’, please click here. )
Crucially, when the London Book Fair opens on Monday 16 April, more than 35 Chinese writers of concern to PEN, including our Honorary Members Liu Xiaobo, Shi Tao, Nurmuhemmet Yasin and Dolma Kyab, will be in detention. Some of these writers are serving sentences of up to twenty years. All are detained for what they have written or said.
Since December 2011, four writers of concern to PEN– Zhu Yufu (right), Chen Wei, Chen Xi and Li Tie – have received harsh sentences on charges of subversion. Furthermore, since 16 February 2011 police have stepped up their harassment of human rights defenders and activists across the country, apparently in response to anonymous calls for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests. Over one hundred human rights defenders and activists have been arbitrarily detained, harassed or intimidated.
We hope that many of our members will join us at London Book Fair and will take full advantage of the opportunity to meet and network with the many Chinese authors and publishers there. However, we also ask that you spare a thought for those that are not able to be there, those that are held in prisons and detention centres across China in violation of their right to free expression. And then please take a few moments to help us make sure that their voices are heard.
SPREAD THE WORD
Send this piece on to any friends or colleagues that you think may be interested, asking them to take action.
Write articles and blog pieces about our Chinese cases of concern to help raise awareness here in the UK.
Use social media to help news of their cases reach even more people.
READ AND SHARE THEIR WORK
Help us give a voice to our silenced Chinese colleagues by reading, sharing, and translating their work, and by writing your own creative responses.
Writings by some of PEN’s cases of concern in China
Zhu Yufu: It’s Time
Liu Xiaobo: You Wait for me With Dust
Nurmuhemmet Yasin: Wild Pigeon
For more details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEND A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
SAVE THE DATE
Join us for a free screening of ‘I Have No Enemies: A Portrait of Liu Xiaobo’ on 28 April as part of ‘Freedom Cells’: http://www.participlepicture.co.uk/freedomcells The 30-minute documentary, directed by Claudine Parrish and produced by Nobel Media, features interviews with many of Liu Xiaobo’s friends and colleagues, including celebrated international artist Ai Weiwei and fellow Tiananmen hunger striker Zhou Duo.
WRITE TO THE AUTHORITIES
Please send letters of appeal to the Chinese Embassy in London:
His Excellency Mr Liu Xiaoming
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place,
Fax: 020 7636 2981
[NB The following is just an example – please do write a more personal letter if you have time.]
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to express concern about the harsh sentences that have been handed down to several Chinese writers in recent months.
Since December 2011, four writers of concern to PEN have received harsh sentences on charges of subversion. These include writer Chen Wei who was sentenced on 23 December 2011 to nine years in prison for ‘subversive writing’; freelance writer and human rights activist Chen Xi, sentenced to ten years in prison on 26 December 2011 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in essays published online; writer and human rights activist Li Tie who was sentenced to ten years in prison on 18 January 2012 for allegedly ‘subversive’ writings, and poet Zhu Yufu, sentenced to seven years in prison on 10 February 2012 for his allegedly ‘subversive’ poem, ‘It’s Time’.
I am writing to respectfully remind the Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which China is a state party, and to call for the release Chen Wei, Chen Xi, Li Tie, Zhu Yufu and the many other writers and literary professionals currently detained in China, immediately and unconditionally in accordance with these obligations.
I would welcome your comments on my appeal.
** Please do let us know if you send a letter of appeal, and certainly if you should receive a response, by emailing email@example.com