The sentencing of two Independent Chinese PEN Center members to lengthy prison terms for the publication of pro-democracy essays is yet another blow in the government’s crackdown on free expression, PEN America said in a statement today.

Today, a court in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou sentenced Lu Gengsong to 11 years in prison and Chen Shuqing to 10 and a half years in prison on charges of subversion for publishing pro-democracy essays on overseas websites and promoting the banned Chinese Democratic Party. Hangzhou will host the Group of 20 summit meeting of global leaders in early September, and Chinese officials are eager to use the event as an opportunity to showcase Chinese power and influence. The harsh sentencing of Lu and Chen, who have both been detained and imprisoned in the past for their pro-democracy activism, comes in the midst of a sustained crackdown on free expression under President Xi Jinping: arrests and trials of human rights lawyers, forced disappearances of Hong Kong booksellers, and ongoing harassment and widespread jailing of writers, journalists, and activists.

“The harsh sentences handed out to two pro-democracy activists stand in stark contrast to President Xi’s ongoing efforts to present China as a serious player on the world stage,” said Katy Glenn Bass, deputy director of PEN’s free expression programs. “Global leaders planning to attend the G 20 summit in Hangzhou should raise China’s human rights record with President Xi and make clear that a country’s strength is measured by its respect for human rights and free expression.”

Chinese authorities have repeatedly persecuted the Independent Chinese PEN Center’s (ICPC) members for exercising their right to free expression. Three ICPC members have been detained since May 31, 2016 for praying to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and seven other ICPC members are currently in prison, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, a former president of the ICPC, who is serving an 11 year sentence for subversion.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression at home and abroad. 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. Learn more at

Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: +1 646-779-4830,