New York, NY, October 13, 2006—PEN American Center today expressed alarm about an apparent crackdown on dissident writers in China. Three writers, Zhang Jianhong, Yang Maodong, and Chen Shuqing, all members of Independent Chinese PEN center (ICPC), have been detained in recent weeks. All three appear to be held for their critical writings and dissident activities. There are serious concerns that they are at risk of ill treatment in prison.

According to PEN’s information, prominent writer Zhang Jianhong (aka Li Hong) was arrested on September 6, 2006 when more than 20 police officers searched his home in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province, Eastern China. His computers were seized and his wife interrogated. He is reportedly charged with “incitement to subversion of state power” for critical articles published online on overseas web sites, most recently one criticizing the government’s treatment of Chinese citizens in advance of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Zhang is the founder of the banned literary web site Aegean Sea, and is also a regular contributor to the overseas Chinese web site Boxun and the Falun Gong newspaper The Epoch Times. From 1989 to 1991, Zhang was imprisoned for his involvement with the pro-democracy movement, and charged with promoting “counterrevolutionary propaganda.”

Similarly, Yang Maodong, also known as Guo Feixiong, a well-known dissident writer, independent publisher and civil rights activist, has been detained since September 14, 2006. According to his wife, police officers searched their home in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, and confiscated Yang’s computer, cell phone, books, and manuscripts. He was previously detained on September 12, 2005 and held without charge until December 2005 for his involvement in and reporting of an anticorruption campaign by villagers in Taishi Village, Guangdong Province. Yang has since been subject to repeated harassment by the authorities, most recently on August 9, 2006 when he was reportedly beaten by railway police and briefly detained for carrying an allegedly false ticket. Reports are currently circulating that Yang is being ill-treated while in detention.

Finally, Chen Shuqing, a dissident writer and leading member of Zhejiang Branch of the banned Chinese Democratic Party, has also been detained since September 14, 2006 after being summoned the previous day to the Daguan Police Station in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province. Chen was arrested on subversion charges, after which police raided his home and seized his computer and private documents. Although the reasoning behind the charge has not been disclosed, Chen is known for his critical articles published on various overseas Chinese Websites such as Boxun, Minzhu Luntan, Dajiyuan, Yi Bao, Guancha, and Xin Shiji. In 1999, Chen was detained for four months for his role in setting up the since banned Chinese Democratic Party, and was also refused a lawyer’s license in 2005 by the Justice Bureau of Zhejiang Province, who claimed that his articles had violated China’s Constitution. Chen challenged this ruling in court, but lost the case in both the lower and the appeal courts, and has since been subject to police harassment.

PEN believes that these men have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the People’s Republic of China is a signatory and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Zhang Jianhong, Yang Maodong, and Chen Shuqing, as well as the assurance that they will not be mistreated or injured while in prison.

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