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Ai Wei Wei and Mario Vargas Llosa join PEN’s call for freedom of expression in China

Wednesday 14 December 2016 - 11:28am

ai wei wei, vargas llosa

14 December 2016

Nobel Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa, and the world renowned artist and human rights defender Ai Wei Wei have joined PEN’s distinguished list of writers and  activists in calling for an end to China’s crackdown on free expression and its continued regime of repression against dissidents. The letter, addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Human Rights Day, calls for the release of writers such as Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, Independent Chinese PEN Centres members Yang Tongyan, Zhu Yufu, Lü Gengsong, Chen Shuqing, Shigen Hu, Qin Yongmin, Liu Yanli and Liu Feiyue and others and condemns the constant acts of repression and censorship exercised over authors and artists.

The letter reads:

Dear President Xi Jinping,

On World Human Rights Day, our PEN International community of writers, readers, activists and publishers condemn the Chinese authority’s sustained and increasing attack on free expression and call for an immediate end to China’s worsening crackdown on fundamental human rights.

We cannot stand by as more and more of our friends and colleagues are silenced. Where is the voice of Ilham Tohti, Uyghur scholar and PEN member, currently serving a life sentence, when his life’s work has been about creating peace and dialogue in China? Where is the voice of veteran journalist Gao Yu, who spent close to two years in prison and is now under house arrest? Where is the voice of publisher Gui Minhai, who disappeared from his holiday home in Thailand and is now being held incommunicado?  Where is the voice of Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xiaobo serving an 11-year prison sentence and the voice of his wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for over six years without even having been accused of a crime?

These writers represent the many critical voices across China currently being silenced. Like the imprisoned and persecuted members of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre: Yang Tongyan, Zhu Yufu, Lü Gengsong, Chen Shuqing, Hu Shigen, Qin Yongmin, Liu Yanli and Liu Feiyue, (and honorary members) Zhang Haitao, Sun Feng, Lu Yuyu, Li Tingyu, Huang Qi and Su Changlan. The enforced silence of these friends and colleagues is deafening, and the disappearance of their voices has left a world worse off for this egregious injustice and loss.

Today we call for their words to reverberate across the globe as we commit to fighting for their freedom until China heeds our call. On days like today we have to reaffirm our refusal not to be complicit in their silence. We have to use our own words to give power to theirs.
China and the rest of the world can only be enriched by these opinions and voices. We therefore urge the Chinese authorities to release the writers, journalists, and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions.

We urge them to uphold freedom of expression and all human rights.

The complete letter and full list of signatories can be read here