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PEN American Center Concerned About Increased Pressure on PEN Members in China
New York City, November 5, 2010—Chinese authorities appear to be stepping up pressure on members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) as part of a campaign to limit information about the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, one of the founding members and a former president of the center. Two ICPC members were harassed in recent days, one of them the center’s webmaster, and ICPC’s web site has gone dark, reportedly as a result of a cyberattack. Since the prize was announced on October 8, dozens of ICPC’s China-based members have been visited by police and harassed and several of its leading members are living under virtual house arrest.
On November 2, Wu Wei (pen name Ye Du), ICPC’s Network Committee coordinator and the organization’s webmaster, was summoned for questioning by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau after Internet writer Guo Xianliang was arrested for “inciting subversion of state power” on October 28 for handing out leaflets about Liu’s Nobel. Police reportedly believe that Wu Wei is behind the leaflets, and he stands accused of disturbing public order. He was questioned for four hours and his home was raided. Police confiscated two computers and information from PEN’s annual international congress, which took place last month in Tokyo, Japan, including a video clip that was shown at the conference of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, reading a letter from Liu Xiaobo, as well as a video about ICPC that included clips of Liu Xiaobo speaking about freedom of expression in China in 2006. ICPC’s web site (www.chinesepen.org), which is hosted on a server based in the United States, went offline yesterday, and reports indicate it may have been the target of a cyberattack.
On November 4, exiled poet Bei Ling, who is a co-founder of ICPC and recently wrote movingly about his friend Liu Xiaobo in a Wall Street Journal editorial, arrived at Beijing International Airport on a flight from Frankfurt for a brief stopover on his way to Taipei, where he was invited to participate in a discussion at Dongwu University and stay as a writer in residence. He was met by 20 police officers as soon as he disembarked and was taken to an empty room at the airport, where he says he was questioned for two hours and told that someone high in the government ordered that he not be permitted to travel on to Taiwan. He was instead manhandled and put on a plane back to Frankfurt. His baggage, which included two manuscripts about underground and exile literature, was confiscated and not returned.
“It is clear that the Chinese government is trying to keep the news of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel win contained as it carries out its own campaign to present him and the prize to the Chinese public in the worst possible light,” said Sarah Hoffman, Freedom to Write coordinator of PEN American Center. “By censoring news, targeting writers and activists, and publishing editorials defaming the character of Liu Xiaobo and the prize itself, China is only further damaging its reputation and discrediting its claims that its citizens are able to fully exercise their right to freedom of expression. We urge the authorities to end this crackdown against our colleagues immediately and permit its citizens full access to information about Liu Xiaobo in order to make up their own minds.”
Many other ICPC members inside China have been harassed and put under house arrest since the Nobel announcement, including Board Member Jiang Qisheng and former Vice President Yu Jie, whose telephones have been cut off for at least two weeks. Many ICPC members have been warned against speaking out about Liu Xiaobo and advised not to attempt to attend the Nobel ceremony in Oslo on December 10. Liu Xia remains under house arrest and has not been heard from since October 20.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit www.pen.org/china