March 19, 2009

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
Beijing 100741
P.R. China

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of writers Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, and to urge you to immediately and unconditionally release their colleagues Xu Wei and Jin Haike.

According to our information, Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai were released on March 12, 2009, from Prison No. 2 in Beijing upon the completion of their sentences. The two were initially arrested on March 13, 2001, along with fellow writers Xu Wei and Jin Haike. On May 28, 2003, all four were sentenced on charges of subversion by the Beijing Intermediate Court, Yang and Zhang to eight years, while Xu and Jin received ten years. The court cited the writers’ participation in “Xin Qingnian Xuehui” (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals who circulate online articles of political and economic concern. In their ruling, the court focused on two articles read by the group entitled “Be a new citizen, reform China” and “What’s to be done,” which they claimed demonstrated an intention to overthrow the Chinese government and socialist system.

Several sources reported last year that all four writers were suffering from acute medical problems and were not receiving necessary medical treatment. Xu Wei was transferred to a penitentiary in Yanqing last year after developing a mental illness while in prison.

While PEN American Center welcomes the release of Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, we believe that Xu Wei and Jin Haike are being held solely for their peaceful dissent, which violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. We therefore seek assurances that both incarcerated writers be granted medical treatment and call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all writers imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this 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 D.C. 20007
Fax: (202) 588-9760

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