Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Twenty Years On: Writers Unite

4 June 2009 - Twenty Years On: Writers Unite

Before you enter the grave
Don't forget to write me with your ashes
Do not forget to leave your address in the nether world

From a poem by Liu Xiaobo, dissident writer and former President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre.

Twenty years after the violent crackdown on the pro-democracy protests which took place in Beijing and other major cities in China on and around 4 June 1989, one of the pro-democracy movement's leading protagonists, Liu Xiaobo, is once again in jail. He is among some forty-three writers detained today in the People's Republic of China for the peaceful expression of their opinions. The detention of Liu Xiaobo is a visible symbol of the Chinese government's unremitting hostility towards any form of organised opposition.

Liu Xiaobo first received support from PEN 20 years ago, when, in 1989, he was one of a group of writers and intellectuals given the label the "Black Hands of Beijing" by the government, and arrested for their part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Liu has since spent a total of five years in prison, including a three year sentence passed in 1996, and he has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment and censorship. Since 8 December 2008, Liu Xiaobo has been held under Residential Surveillance at an undisclosed location in Beijing. He is among a large number of dissidents to have been detained or harassed since December 2008 for their support of Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reforms and human rights. No charges have as yet been made known.

International PEN has had significant concerns about freedom of expression in China for many years, where the large numbers of writers and journalists harassed, detained and imprisoned for calling for improved civil and political rights have remained largely unchanged. PEN also has serious concerns about prison conditions, ill-health, access to medical care and family visits.

On 4 June 2009, International PEN WiPC is calling upon writers worldwide to express solidarity with their colleagues in China who are today behind bars, many serving lengthy prison terms, solely for the peaceful expression of their views. PEN is demanding their immediate and unconditional release.

Please send appeals:

Expressing dismay that, twenty years after the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy protests, there has been little change in the situation for writers in China, who continue to be arrested in large numbers for their peaceful dissent;
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in China in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Send appeals to:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of Public Security
East Chang'an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. China

Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. WiPC recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Letters to the press:

PEN members are urged to write letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in China, and highlighting Liu Xiaobo's case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@internationalpen.org.uk


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