New York, December 9, 2008—PEN American Center expressed extreme dismay today over the detention of prominent dissident and leading PEN Member Dr. Liu Xiaobo on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” a criminal charge that could result in a lengthy prison term. His arrest comes amid a wave of detentions and other actions targeting leading writers and activists who have been organizing activities marking Human Rights Day.

According to PEN’s information, police arrived at the homes of Dr. Liu, former president and current board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and fellow activist Zhang Zuhua just after 9:00 p.m. on December 8. At 11:00 p.m., they took both men away and searched their homes, confiscating computers and other materials. While Zhang Zuhua was released this morning, Liu Xiaobo remains in detention. It appears likely he will stand trial on subversion charges, a favorite means of jailing dissident voices in China; if convicted, he could face at least three years in prison. Both dissidents are co-signers of Charter 08, a declaration disseminated on the eve of Human Rights Day that outlines political reforms and calls for greater human rights and democracy in China.

Human Rights Day, which commemorates the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is celebrated throughout the world every year on December 10. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of this cornerstone of international human rights law.

“The unfolding crackdown in China is deeply troubling,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “While the world comes together to commemorate the basic rights that are the birthright of all humanity, the detention of Dr. Liu Xiaobo in China and the harassment of his colleagues—simply for exercising their most fundamental rights—suggests that the Beijing Olympics did little to advance the basic rights of Chinese citizens. We strongly condemn Dr. Liu’s detention, and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105