Letter to the Editor: Artistic freedom in China
As writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and others active in cultural pursuits, we are inspired and enriched by the works of colleagues beyond our borders. The strength of our work individually, and our cultures collectively, is the fruit of a free exchange of information and ideas with the creative community across the world.
Among our colleagues today are many creators and cultural figures in the People’s Republic of China. We celebrate the growing international recognition of Chinese artists from all disciplines, a development exemplified by Mo Yan’s 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, and we welcome the ever-expanding avenues of cultural exchange.
We cannot, however, listen to China’s great and emerging creative voices without hearing the silence of those whose voices are forcibly restrained. These include the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo, who remains in prison; his wife, Liu Xia, who lives under house arrest; and more than forty other writers and journalists currently jailed for their work.
We cannot appreciate the accomplishments of Chinese creators across disciplines without thinking of the works we are not able to enjoy because of censorship in the arts, in the press, and on the internet – or of the many other works that cannot be imagined or created because of these constraints. The impact of these restrictions is set out vividly in PEN International’s May 2013 Report, Creativity and Constraint in Today’s China.
Our plea to China’s new leaders is simple. Respect and protect the right of our colleagues, and all of China’s citizens, to freedom of expression. Respect and protect the right of Chinese citizens to a free and independent press. Respect and protect the right of writers to write, publishers to publish, and artists of all disciplines to create and present their work without fear of reprisal. Release all those unjustly imprisoned for exercising this most fundamental right.
Creativity is strength. Freeing China’s creative voices will enrich us all.
HÉCTOR ABAD, EDWARD ALBEE, ANTHONY APPIAH, ANTÓN ARRUFAT, JOHN ASHBERY, MARGARET ATWOOD, PAUL AUSTER, ANDREI BITOV, J. M. COETZEE, DON DELILLO, KIRAN DESAI, E. L. DOCTOROW, ARIEL DORFMAN, VICTOR EROFEEV, JUAN GELMAN, NADINE GORDIMER, JUAN GOYTISOLO, ALBERTO MANGUEL, IAN MCEWAN, ROHINTON MISTRY, JOHN RALSTON SAUL, SALMAN RUSHDIE, WILL SELF, ELIF SHAFAK, SJÓN, WOLE SOYINKA, COLIN THUBRON, COLM TÓIBÍN, TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER, LUISA VALENZUELA, MARIO VARGAS LLOSA, MARINA WARNER, A. B. YEHOSHUA AND 123 MORE
PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1.