UPDATE: Li Jianhong was conditionally released from detention in Shanghai today. PEN continues to monitor her situation.
Writer Li Jianhong, a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) who served as its Writers in Prison Committee Coordinator until the end of 2013, was detained today after she re-entered China following years in exile in Sweden. She remains incommunicado at an undisclosed location. PEN American Center is extremely concerned for her well-being and is monitoring the situation closely. ICPC released the following statement earlier today.
The Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) is outraged to learn that its member Miss Li Jianhong (aka Xiao Qiao) was taken into custody by the police from her home in Shanghai, China, in the afternoon of 12 February 2014, since when she has been held incommunicado in an unknown location. ICPC fears that Miss Li has been unjustly detained and mistreated for her returning to China as well as for her words and deeds abroad, and therefore strongly demands the Chinese authorities to restore her personal freedom, and ensure all of her legal rights.
Li Jianhong (pen name: Xiaoqiao), native of Bengpu, Anhui province, received a master's degree in Western Europe and North America studies from the East China Normal University in Shanghai in 1994. She has been a high school teacher, management staff of foreign-invested companies, business reporter and securities analyst. She co-founded an independent Chinese website "Enlightenment Forum" with friends in 2002. In 2004, the website shut down after its webmaster and other management staff had been taken for interrogation and investigation around the 15th anniversary of the June 4 Massacre. Then, she was persecuted by the Shanghai authorities, including police surveillance, harassments, summons, restrictions on her freedom of speech, action and movement, house arrests and short detentions for many times. She was deprived her right to work and was forced to become an independent freelancer.
With ICPC and PEN International recommendation as well as the coordination of the Norway-based International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), Stockholm City government in Sweden invited Miss Li Jianhong to be a Writer of Residence in Stockholm for 2008, originally for one year and it was later extended for six more months. After several months of negotiation with the Shangai police, Li was escorted by the national security police of the Pudong District in Shanghai to the airport and left for Stockholm on April 28, 2008. In the same year, an anthology of her writings "Seawind" was published in Hong Kong, and then she joined first group of signatories of Charter 08 in December.
In 2009, Miss Li Jianhong applied to the Chinese Embassy in Sweden for the extension of her Chinese passport due to expire in late October of the same year, but got rejection. In order to return to China with a valid passport, she had to finish her programme of visiting writer earlier and left Sweden for Hong Kong on 10 October. She tried twice to enter China mainland via the border checkpoints in Shenzhen but was turned back to Hong Kong where the immigration authorities sent her to Sweden before her passport would expire soon. Then she had to get refugee status to stay in Sweden for further negotiations with the Chinese Embassy on the issue of returning to China. Four more years since then, Miss Li has always upheld her rights of Chinese citizenship to return home by applying nearly ten times to regain her passport from the Chinese Embassy and appealing several times to the authorities in China, but got no permission to return to China. In order to take care of her 77-year-old father, alone at home in Shanghai, she took an "abnormal approach" to return home alone, leaving a "Statement for Returning Home" on New Year's Day. She met her father and sister (who visited home from Germany where she has been studying) at her old hometown in Anhui Province, and then they returned together to their home in Shanghai on 11 February. In the afternoon of the following day, nearly 10 of the police raided their home and took Miss Li Jianhong away. In the evening, some of the police officers came to their home again and questioned her father and sister, but left no information on which department is responsible and what reasons are for her detention. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Miss Li Jianhong joined ICPC in 2004, and became a member of its Women Writers Committee, and got its Lin Zhao Memorial Award in 2007. She was one of the three persecuted women writers honoured by the Writers in Prison Committee and Women Writers Committee of PEN International on International Women's Day in 2008. She was appointed the secretary-general of the ICPC's 4th Members' Congress in 2009. Since then she had successively served as the member of ICPC secretariat and several committees, became the Assistant Coordinator of ICPC Writers in Prison Committee in July 2019 and was promoted its Coordinator in November 2011, from which she resigned by the end of 2013 for her returning to China.
As human rights situation in China is deteriorating and a great number of dissidents including 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and ICPC Honorary President Dr. Liu Xiaobo and five other members are still being imprisoned for their words, ICPC is seriously concerned for Miss Li Jianhong’s whereabouts and well-being, and calls on the international communities to urge the Chinese authorities:
- to release Miss Li Jianhong immediately and unconditionally.
- to ensure her personal safety and humane treatment, and all of her legal rights during her detention.
- to restore all of her civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China signed in 1998.
PEN International is the world's oldest human rights organization and international literary organization. ICPC is one of PEN International's 146 members and aims to protect writers’ freedom of expression and freedom to write worldwide and advocates for the rights of writers and journalists who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted or harassed in China particularly. For more information, please visit http://www.chinesepen.org/english
Yu Zhang, Dr.
Coordinator of Press & Translation Committee
Independent Chinese PEN Center