January 9, 2012

President of the People’s Republic of China
His Excellency Hu Jintao
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Minister of Justice
Wu Aiying Buzhang
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijingshi 100020
People’s Republic of China
Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the conviction of writers Chen Wei and Chen Xi on charges of “inciting subversion.”

According to our information, on December 23, 2011, during a two-hour, closed-door hearing, Chen Wei was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to nine years in prison for seven passages in four essays criticizing the Chinese political system and praising the development of civil society. Chen, a co-signer of Charter 08 who was detained in February during a crackdown sparked by fears of an Arab Spring-style “Jasmine revolution,” has only been allowed to meet with his lawyers twice since he was detained. We understand that he has decided not to appeal the verdict.

Chen Xi, a freelance writer and prominent human rights activist, was arrested on November 29, 2011, and on December 26, 2011, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to 10 years in prison at a trial that lasted less than three hours. His conviction was based on several quotations from over 30 of his articles published on overseas Chinese web sites. He has also decided not to appeal his verdict.

PEN American Center is incredibly alarmed by the continuing crackdown on dissent in China, which has seen dozens of writers, journalists, and human rights defenders arrested in the last year alone in violation of their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. We therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release of Chen Wei and Chen Xi, as well as all other writers imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression, and we call upon the Chinese government to uphold its obligations to expand protections for the human rights of its citizens, including the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this crucial matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Zhang Yesui
Ambassador of the PRC to the U.S.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the U.S.
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 495-2138

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