China: authorities must provide writer Yang Tongyan with adequate medical treatment

English PEN joins colleagues around the world in urging the Chinese authorities to provide writer and PEN member Yang Tongyan with adequate medical treatment and restore his access to medical insurance following his diagnosis of a brain tumour.

Yang’s family members learnt of his diagnosis on 12 August 2017 and immediately sought his release on medical parole. According to friends, Yang was released from prison on 16 August and was expected to be transferred to a hospital. His family has been informed that he will not be allowed to travel abroad for treatment as he is still ‘a criminal’.

Yang – who also writes under the pen name Yang Tianshui – is a dissident writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC). Arrested in December 2005, he was serving a 12-year sentence for ‘subversion’ in connection with his writings. Yang, who had already spent a decade in prison in the 90s, was due to be released later this year on completion of his sentence.

Cat Lucas, English PEN’s Writers at Risk Programme Manager, said:

We were devastated to learn that, after more than two decades in prison in China, writer and fellow PEN member Yang Tongyan has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. The news feels even more tragic in light of the fact that he was finally due to be released in just a matter of months.

While we welcome Yang’s release on medical parole, we nevertheless continue to urge the Chinese authorities to ensure that he has immediate access to the medical attention he requires, that all charges against him be dropped immediately and unconditionally and to allow him to travel abroad for treatment should he wish to do so.

Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International, said:

The PEN community is deeply disturbed to learn of the ill-health of our colleague Yang Tongyan. We call on the Chinese authorities to show leniency and grant him early release, and in doing so permit him access to the medical care of his choosing, wherever that may be.

Yang is known for his critical writings published on dissident news websites such as and Epoch Times. He spent a decade in prison from 1990 to 2000 on ‘counter-revolution’ charges for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests. He is an honorary member of PEN Canada, Italian PEN and PEN America. In 2008 he was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

The news of Yang’s tumour follows the death of fellow ICPC member and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo in July, shortly after his own release on medical parole. Liu Xiaobo’s wife, the poet and PEN member Liu Xia, has not been seen since his funeral and PEN is continuing to call on the Chinese authorities to lift all remaining restrictions placed upon Liu Xia immediately and unconditionally.


Spread the word

 Share details of Yang Tongyan’s case with friends and colleagues and on social media. #FreeYangTongyan

Write to the Chinese authoritites

Please send appeals:

  • Expressing concern for the health and well-being of writer Yang Tongyan;
  • Calling for all charges against Yang Tongyan to be lifted immediately and unconditionally and for him be allowed to travel abroad for treatment if he so wishes.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025

Salutation: Your Excellency

We recommend that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments. See this useful link to find the contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country Chinese embassies abroad.

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