PEN American Center Calls for Immediate Release of 81-Year Old Writer Arrested Sunday in Beijing

NEW YORK—The arrest and detention Sunday of Chinese writer and publisher Tie Liu is an outrageous example of Beijing’s 65-year campaign against free expression, prioritizing the image of the Party over the rights of the people, PEN American Center said in a statement today.

Tie, now 81 years old, spent nearly 25 years in Chinese labor camps for criticizing Mao and the Party in his writing after China’s Communist Revolution. He is charged with “creating a disturbance,” though police were unable or unwilling to explain the details of the accusation.

“The government in Beijing has been trying to repress Tie’s ideas for almost 60 years and, even though he’s over 80, they have not let up,” said Dominic Moran, Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center. “The impressive thing is, neither has he.”

PEN is protesting Tie’s arrest as a violation of his universally guaranteed right to free expression and demands his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Tie’s arrest elucidates the mantra that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Despite his previous imprisonment, Tie had continued writing political essays and publishing memoirs of people persecuted by the Communist Party. His age exempts him as a threat to public safety, a claim often invoked by the Chinese to justify political detentions. The New York Times suggests his arrest “probably” stems from a critical essay he published earlier this year on Liu Yunshan, Director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

At 81, Mr. Tie is increasingly vulnerable to deteriorating health and mistreatment in detention, and thus his incarceration may violate his right to a just and proportionate punishment. According to his wife and lawyer, Mr. Tie was confident that, due to his age, he was no longer at risk of arrest.


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 3,500 American writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide.

Dominic Moran, Director of Free Expression Programs:, (212) 334-1660 x 105
Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager:, m. (617) 947-6512