Poet Xue Deyun (pen name Ma Zhe) was arrested on January 26, 1998, due to his active support of the Guizhou cultural revival calling for increased literary freedom in China. Though the three poets arrested with him were released later in 1998, Xue was convicted of “engaging in subversive activities,” violating Article 105.2 of the Chinese Penal Code, and attempting to overthrow “the socialist system by rumor-mongering or slander,” and sentenced to five years in prison. Xue was released on July 25, 2001, when Guizhou’s High Court ruled to reduce his sentence during his appeal.
Xue Deyun is a poet and editor from Guizhou Province in Southwestern China. He is a writer and leader in the Guizhou cultural revival, which is a movement that calls for increased literary freedom in China. Xue has always been a strong advocate for free speech and democratic principles in China: he was jailed from 1987-1990 for his involvement in the December 1986 Beijing student protests.
On January 26, 1998, he was arrested along with three other poets, Ma Qiang, Wu Ruohai, and Xiong Jinren (also known as Xiong Xiang), as they were about to launch their unofficial literary journal supporting literary freedom entitled China Cultural Renaissance Bulletin. Chinese dissidents state that when Xue Deyun and his colleagues were arrested, the men’s homes were raided, and their writing and address books confiscated without a warrant. The other three poets were released later in 1998, however, Xue was tried and convicted of “engaging in subversive activities,” violating Article 105.2 of the Chinese Penal Code, and attempting to overthrow “the socialist system by rumor-mongering or slander.” He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the Guiyang Municipal People’s Court.
In 2000, while still in prison, Xue Deyun was a recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. On July 25, 2001, he was released on appeal, having served three-and-a-half years of his sentence. Xue is an honorary member of PEN American Center, as well as the Canadian, Ghanaian, and Norwegian PEN Centers.