New York, NY, October 12, 2007—PEN American Center today expressed alarm over tightening controls on the media in advance of the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which opens Monday in Beijing. A two-month crackdown has included the shutdown of entire Internet Data Centers (IDCs) housing thousands of servers and the arrests of a number of writers, including Lu Gengsong, who was detained on August 24, 2007 and formally charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’ on September 29.

“It is certainly discouraging, with all of the attention on human rights in China in the run up to the 2008 Olympics, to see Chinese authorities behaving with such blatant disregard for both the free expression rights of its people and for international opinion,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “The current crackdown ahead of the Party Congress seems calculated to deprive China’s citizens of their right to discuss, debate, and criticize the most basic decisions affecting their political future. We are asking the international press to step in and do what the Chinese people themselves are being prevented from doing: shine a bright spotlight on the Party Congress and on this latest, flagrant denial of the people’s most basic political rights.”

The shutdown of Internet Data Centers comes in the wake of new laws restricting the general dissemination of information, laws which forbid “illegal news coverage” as well as “spreading rumors” and “false news.” Carrying a long list of so-called “forbidden topics,” these vague new catch-alls have led the Public Security Bureau to order IDCs to close all interactive functions on hosted Web sites until the Congress’ conclusion, including bulletin boards, blogs, and comment pages. Failure to take down these functions or allowing the posting of information deemed to be illegal or offensive has led to the closure of entire IDCs.

As the Chinese authorities seek to expand their control over the internet, they continue to pursue individual critics as well. According to PEN’s information, writer and human rights activist Lu Gengsong was arrested in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, on August 24, 2007, following the on-line publication of articles critical of the authorities. His home was searched and his computer and personal files were reportedly confiscated. His wife was also taken in for questioning as a ‘criminal suspect’ and released three hours later. Although an initial charge of ‘illegal possession of state secrets’ has been dropped, Mr. Lu was formally charged on September 29, 2007 with ‘inciting subversion of state power’, a charge which is often used to silence dissidents. Mr. Lu is being held at the Xihu (West Lake) Detention Centre in Hangzhou City, where he has been denied all visitors except his wife.

PEN is an association of writers working to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship. PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. PEN is currently working to secure the release of 46 writers in China, including Huang Jinqiu, Shi Tao, Dolma Kyab, Ven. Ngawang Phulchung, Tohti Tunyaz, and Nurmuhemmet Yasin, and to ensure that all Chinese citizens are allowed the freedom to write. For more information, please visit: https://pen.org/caselist.pdf

“The world is waiting for concrete evidence that the human rights situation in China is improving,” Siems said. “Once again we are calling on the Chinese government to lift restrictions on all media including the internet and to release all those who are being held in violation of their universally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.”

 

 

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org