Jailed Chinese Writer To Receive PEN Award
Yang Tongyan, a Chinese writer serving a 12-year prison term for posting anti-government articles on the Internet, will receive this year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
The $10,000 prize, announced yesterday, is made annually to an imprisoned or persecuted writer in jeopardy because of health or other reasons. It is underwritten by Goldsmith, a historian, author and philanthropist, and presented by the American chapter of PEN, an international organization that monitors the persecution of writers.
“I was particularly pleased that the advisory committee selected someone from China,” Goldsmith said in a telephone interview. “With the Olympics and the economic conference following them, this is a unique chance to focus on human rights there, and on the secrecy in which they’ve conducted these repressions.”
Yang, an essayist, poet and novelist who suffers from diabetes and arthritis, was arrested in December 2005 for “subverting state authority.” The following May, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Also known by the pen name Yang Tianshui, Yang previously spent a decade in Chinese prisons for his opposition to the treatment of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Yang is one of 38 writers, including five PEN members, currently imprisoned in China, according to Larry Siems, director of the PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write program.