New York, New York, December 14, 2004— Officers and staff of PEN American Center today expressed  alarm at the news that Chinese authorities detained three prominent intellectuals yesterday, including two writers who helped found a new PEN Center to promote the free exchange of literatureand ideas in China, in large-scale police raids at their homes yesterday in Beijing. The New York Times has reported that Yu Jie and Liu Xiaobo were detained along with Zhang Zuhua, a political theorist, and that relatives of Mr. Yu reported receiving an arrest warrant for “participating in activities harmful to the state.” All three men have reportedly been allowed to return to their homes, but police continue to be posted outside their residences and PEN fears the men may yet be charged with subversion.

“We are deeply disturbed by these actions, which we fear may be in retribution for writings criticizing recent detentions and for the efforts of the Independent Chinese PEN Center to honor literary works that have been banned in the People’s Republic of China,” PEN American Center Freedom to Write and International Programs Director Larry Siems said today in New York. “All of these activities are clearly protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, and we urge the international community to join in condemning these violations of the right to freedom ofexpression.”

Just over a month ago, the Independent Chinese PEN Center held anawards ceremony in Beijing honoring  Zhang Yihe, whose memoir The Past Doesn’t Disappear Like Smoke chronicles the persecution of her father and other ministers in Mao Zedong’s government during the “anti-rightist” purges in the 1950s. The book was officially banned shortly after its publication in Beijing in January, but continues to be read widely in pirated and Taiwanese editions. All three men arrested yesterday attended that event. In addition, Mr. Yu and Mr. Liu reportedly published several articles calling attention to the arrest of Shi Tao, a poet and journalist currently jailed for leaking state secrets in connection with his work in Shanghai. Chinese authorities have also detained a journalist in The New York Times bureau in Beijing and fired a journalism professor and a prominent editor in what appears to be a new push to crack down on press freedom and freedom of speech.

“While we welcome the news that Mr. Yu, Mr. Liu, and Mr. Zhang are no longer in official custody, the fact that our colleagues have been the target of full-scale police raids and received arrest warrants is of urgent concern to PEN and to all who care about the climate for artistic and expressive freedom in China,” said Larry Siems. “That this occurs against a backdrop of accelerating arrests and new limits on press freedom raises serious questions about the direction President Hu Jintao seems to be steering the world’s most populous nation.”

Noting that the news of the arrests and the larger crackdown arrived just not long after PEN learned that the dissident writer Liu Jingsheng had been released after serving 12 ½ years of a 15 year prison sentence, Siems called the developments “disappointing and discouraging.” “We will be following these cases closely for any signs that Chinese authorities are pursuing prosecutions or otherwise interfering with the rights of our colleagues to carry out a full range of literary and PEN activities,” he added.

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
(212) 334-1660, ext. 106
lsiems@pen.org