(New York, NY) – PEN America welcomes the decision of Swedish PEN to honor imprisoned publisher Gui Minhai, and decries the Chinese government’s efforts to intimidate those who took part in the award ceremony.

Last week, PEN America’s fellow literary and free expression advocacy group Swedish PEN awarded its Tucholsky Prize to Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, who has spent the last four years in Chinese custody. The prize is awarded annually to a persecuted or exiled writer. The Chinese embassy to Sweden labeled the award “a farce” and said that Swedish PEN would “surely suffer the consequences of their own actions.” China’s ambassador to Sweden later threatened Swedish Minister of Culture Amanda Lind with a ban on visiting China if she attended the award ceremony, and also said that the event would bring “countermeasures.” Despite this threat, Lind presented Gui with the award on Friday in absentia.

“State officials kidnapped Gui Minhai, forced him into a series of staged confessions, and have held him against his will for years, in a breathtakingly blatant violation of human rights and international law. Now the Chinese government is attempting to intimidate Swedish state officials and non-governmental organizations into silence over these abuses,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “Such efforts at intimidation are shameless and abhorrent. If China truly doesn’t want to be criticized over its appalling treatment of Gui Minhai, here’s a solution: release him.”

Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, has been in Chinese custody since October 2015, when Chinese state security agents abducted him from his vacation home in Thailand. Numerous rights groups – including PEN America – have condemned his illegal and arbitrary detention, and have expressed serious concerns for his health.

Swedish PEN and PEN America are both part of the PEN International network, a group of more than 100 PEN centers worldwide. At the award ceremony, Gui Minhai was represented by an empty chair, a long-standing symbol used by PEN centers symbolically to depict a writer who could not be present because they have been targeted for their work.  


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.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892