NEW YORK—Police action against Muslim poet Cui Haoxin—better known by his pen name An Ran—is a clear attempt to silence the writer from being vocal on the issue of mass incarceration of Muslims and others in political “re-education camps,” PEN America said today.

An Ran is a poet and writer from the majority-Muslim Hui ethnic group whose work includes the 2017 collection Black Gobi. On August 16, An Ran revealed in a blog post that police had raided his home that day and had warned him not to use his Twitter or Facebook accounts. In recent days, An Ran has used Twitter to comment on and re-tweet stories about the forced detention of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnicities in China’s western Xinjiang region. Ran reported that the policemen who interrogated him asked him specifically about his tweets, saying that stories of “events in Xinjiang had been concocted by the foreign media to smear China.” In April 2018, An Ran was told to attend a weeklong re-education course in eastern China and was briefly detained, an incident which An Ran has said was related to his poetry and other writings that reference Xinjiang

Writing about his interaction with the police, An Ran wrote: “”The Chinese authorities are unwilling to hear the different views and confuse dissent with disloyalty . . . The government doesn’t resolve the question but they resolve the questioner. A lot of Chinese Muslims [have been] resolved.”

“This is a clear cut example of the Chinese government seeking to silence a critical voice through intimidation,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “An Ran, a poet, is speaking out on one of the most important human rights issues of our day. Instead of attempting to shut him down, authorities should be listening. As a group dedicated to safeguarding and cherishing freedom of expression everywhere, PEN America recognizes that China’s policy of forced “re-education” in Xinjiang is a human rights disaster, one with dire implications for the right to free expression. We call upon the government to immediately end and reverse these catastrophic and abusive policies.”

A wide array of credible reports from journalists and human rights organizations have revealed a broad system of state surveillance and forced detention of inhabitants in large “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where they are subject to a mandatory “patriotic” regimen. Such regimens are reportedly oriented around coercively discouraging detainees from expressing their ethnic and religious identity, including reported incidents where Muslim detainees were forced to eat pork, as well as other abuses. While reported numbers vary, the number of detainees is widely believed to be in the hundreds of thousands. Detainees include a large number of Uyghurs, a Turkic majority-Muslim ethnic group, as well as other ethnic minorities.  

###

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. 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. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org