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Elif Shafak writes to Imprisoned Writer Gao Yu

Thursday 13 November 2014 - 5:40pm


We have never met in person. Yet the honesty, integrity and power of your words and your exceptional courage have travelled beyond the borders of China and reached my heart, the way they have reached the hearts of countless others, East and West. I would like you to know that there are many people across the globe who are aware of the unfair treatments and hardships you are going through. People that care about what is happening to you. People who stand in solidarity with you.

China is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This entails protecting basic universal human rights, including the freedom of expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial. The Chinese government needs to remember that.

As history has shown us, democracy is nothing but a lame word if there is no space in it for criticism, creativity and dissent. Societies move forward not through sameness and repetition, but thanks to differences of opinion and intellectual diversity. Raising important questions, something you have done so bravely and so honestly, is an integral part of this process.  There are things that are sacred for all human beings everywhere around the world like water and bread. Words, too, are sacred. They are delicate and strong, intricate and simple, like the ancient art of silk-weaving. The great Chinese culture has given birth to many important philosophers, writers and poets who recognised the value of words and our need to set them free.

We urge the Chinese government to protect you from ill-treatment and to grant you access to your family and a lawyer of your own choice. We are greatly concerned about your well-being; we will be following your case closely and we will stand up for you.

Trusting that better days will come and yes they will, I am sending you my deep respect and sisterhood … I hope that you find comfort in the fact that your words echo far and wide, reaching hearts and minds beyond the bars of your cell, beyond the walls of your prison, reminding us that the freedom of speech is worth fighting for.

With continued wishes of hope,

Elif Shafak


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