Chinese courts have effectively ended the career of prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, PEN American Center said today in reference to Mr. Pu’s conviction and suspended sentence. 

Mr. Pu was arrested in May 2014 and held in detention for over 19 months for comments he made online. He was tried before a three-judge panel on December 14, 2015 on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for posts he made on a microblog.  The courts found him guilty of those charges and sentenced him to three years in prison with a three year reprieve. Mr. Pu was released from custody on December 22 and will remain under “residential surveillance.” He has 10 days to appeal his conviction. 

According to Chinese law, individuals convicted of a criminal offense are prohibited from practicing law. Unless Mr. Pu successfully appeals the verdict, his conviction means he will not be able to continue his career as a lawyer, a serious blow to human rights in China. 

 “China’s sentencing of Pu Zhiqiang is the latest example in an ongoing crackdown by President Xi Jinping’s administration against activists, human rights lawyers, and writers,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN. “Official reprisals for these individuals’ online activity and expression continues even though President Xi stated recently that internet users must be free to speak their minds online. Clearly, China’s statements on digital freedom and their actions regarding it are worlds apart.”

China’s record of persecuting those who exercise their right to freedom of expression online is abysmal. Forty-nine writers are languishing in jail, and at least 37 of these writers have been jailed in relation to their free expression online, according to PEN’s records.    


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S. writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide.


Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs: [email protected], (646) 779.4822
Shreya Balhara, Free Expression Programs Coordinator: [email protected], (212) 334.1994