March 11, 2010

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

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of the Public Security
East Chang’an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. China

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 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 five-year prison sentence handed down to writer and activist Tan Zuoren.

According to our information, on February 9, 2010, freelance writer, editor and activist Tan Zuoren, aged 55, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power,” and sentenced to five years in prison and three years’ deprivation of political rights. The sentence was announced in a five-minute hearing at the Chengdu Intermediate Court. Tan’s wife and a number of his supporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom. An appeal against the conviction has been announced. He is currently being held at Wenjian District Detention Center in Chengdu City.

Tan Zuoren was detained on March 28, 2009, and formally arrested on April 30, 2009. His case was first heard on August 12, 2009. According to the verdict, handed down seven months later, his conviction is based on one of his essays entitled “Witnessing the Final Beauty—An Eyewitness’s Diary of the Square.” This piece was reportedly about the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement and crackdown, and was published in three parts on overseas Chinese web sites in 2007. There are also fears that Tan is being punished for conducting an investigation into the death of school children in the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Tan Zuoren is chief editor of the cultural magazine Wen Hua Ren and the founder of the environmental organization Green Rivers. He has also published many articles and blogs online.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that the conviction and sentencing of Tan Zuoren is part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in China, and is in direct violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, as well as China’s own constitution. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views. 

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Mr. Zhou Wenzhong
Ambassador of the PRC to the U.S.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the U.S.
2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 588-9760

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