The sentencing of activist and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Qin Yongmin, to 13 years in prison for “subversion” demonstrates a gross denial of justice, PEN America said today.

On July 11, 2018, Qin Yongmin was found guilty of subversion of state power and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The charges stem from a series of writings Qin posted online and published outside China, advocating a transition to constitutional democracy within the country. Qin, who is known to be in poor health, reportedly fainted during the trial and was unconscious when prosecutors read out his indictment. Qin has already served three years in pre-trial detention, and has previously spent more than twenty years of his life in prison for his peaceful activism.

“Qin Yongmin’s sentence is a stark and painful reminder that the Chinese Communist Party has criminalized the peaceful expression of dissenting speech within China,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Thirteen years in prison for writing articles online is an atrocious and unjustifiable attack on freedom of speech,” Lopez continued. “We are also gravely concerned for the state of Qin’s health. PEN America calls for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Qin’s 13-year sentence is believed to be one of the longest sentences ever handed down for the crime of subversion, and comes the day after poet Liu Xia was released from house arrest. Liu Xia’s husband, Liu Xiaobo, received an 11-year sentence for subversion in 2009. Liu Xiaobo died in July 2017 of liver cancer, weeks after being released from prison for medical treatment.

Zhao Suli, Qin’s wife, was also detained with Qin during his 2015 arrest. Public information on her whereabouts is scarce, and it is believed that—similar to Liu Xia’s recent case—she remains under house arrest.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Summer Lopez, Senior Director for Free Expression Programs: