June 9, 2010

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

Your Excellency,

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 welcome the medical parole of writer and PEN American Center Honorary Member Zhang Jianhong on June 5, 2010.

According to our information, Zhang Jianhong (pen name Li Hong), age 52, a prominent poet, playwright, author, and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was serving a six-year sentence when his health began deteriorating in prison. He had been held in Zhejiang Provincial Prison Hospital in Hangzhou since October 2007 with muscle atrophy and paralysis, but was released on medical parole when his health took a turn for the worse. Zhang was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system, and is now dependent on a life support machine and requires intensive care. Zhang is unable to speak or write. According to Zhang’s doctors, he is likely to remain dependent on the ventilator for the rest of his life, but he might regain the use of his hands with rehabilitation treatment. The cost for keeping Zhang in intensive care is about $500 to $600 a day, money that his family does not have.

Zhang began publishing his poems in the 1980s, and was previously imprisoned from 1989 to 1991 for his pro-democracy activities. In August 2005 he founded the literary web site Aiqinhai of which he was editor-in-chief. The web site was banned by authorities in 2006. Before his most recent incarceration in 2006, he was a regular contributor to the overseas Chinese web sites Boxun and The Epoch Times.

PEN American Center sincerely welcomes the medical release of Zhang Jianghong, but we are gravely concerned that he is in critical condition in a hospital and is dependent on a ventilator. We call for all charges against Zhang Jianhong to be dropped in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, and we urge authorities to provide Zhang Jianhong with all necessary medical care immediately. 

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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