(NEW YORK)—Chinese essayist, civil rights activist, and lawyer Xu Zhiyong received a 14-year prison sentence today on charges of “subversion of state power.” PEN America condemns the sentence and calls for his and co-accused Ding Jiaxi’s immediate and unconditional release. Xu is PEN America’s 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree.

Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a longtime civil rights leader, was detained in 2020 after penning an essay criticizing the leadership of China’s president Xi Jinping, including his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and calling on Xi to resign. The case against him was based on peaceful civil rights work he undertook with lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), who received a 12-year prison sentence the same day. The sentencing comes over nine months after Xu and Ding’s trials took place on June 22 and June 24, 2022, respectively, and they remained in detention prior to their sentences being confirmed today.

Both men are honorary members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC).

There are credible accusations from Xu and Ding that they were tortured in pre-trial detention, including the use of the “tiger chair” torture device and being deprived of food and water. Xu Zhiyong’s fiancée, rights activist Li Qiaochu, was herself detained on February 6, 2021 on suspicion of “inciting subversion” after posting information about Xu and Ding’s treatment in custody, including reports of torture. Li is currently still detained and the reports from her lawyer indicated her physical and health has seriously deteriorated in jail.

While the verdict is not yet public, the indictments against Xu and Ding cited peaceful advocacy to increase citizen participation in the country as “subversion.” Authorities claimed the organization of the “Citizens Movement”, Xu Zhiyong’s writings which supposedly “attacked and slandered” the political system, and the dissemination of Xu’s writing were evidence of criminal activity. These activities are protected under Xu and Ding’s human rights to freedom of expression and association. In charging, convicting and sentencing them, the Chinese government has violated China’s domestic law and its international legal obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression and association, and to prevent torture.

“This sentence is an outrageous assault on freedom of expression. The government made Xu Zhiyong an enemy of the state because he wrote about civic participation and a just and fair China. The verdict demonstrates the fundamental insecurity of the Chinese Communist Party, who fear the mighty voice of a single man. This 14-year sentence is a shocking and desperate act from the state to hide Xu Zhiyong from the people of China and the world. But his writing lives on outside the bars of a prison cell and the state will never stop his words from inspiring others,” said Angeli Datt, PEN America’s China research and advocacy lead.

“Chinese law places the big label of ‘subverting state power’ on thoughtful and courageous dissidents, including their families. Such a barbaric and upside-down rule of law has long been reduced to an accomplice of totalitarianism. This manipulated trial will add an extra heavy weight to the criminal history of the CCP,” said Mrs. Tienchi Martin-Liao, former and Honorary President of ICPC.

“I’m proud to suffer for the sake of freedom, justice and love. I do not believe they can build national rejuvenation on the quicksand of lies. I do not believe the Chinese nation is destined to authoritarianism and slavery. I don’t believe freedom can be forever imprisoned behind high walls. And I do not believe the future will forever be a dark night without daybreak.”

Xu Zhiyong’s Court Statement, April 9, 2023

“All Chinese who care about our country’s future must shoulder the historical responsibility of our generation, which is to eradicate autocracy and build a beautiful China… As long as we work as one, the light of freedom, democracy and the rule of law will surely shine on the land of China!”


On December 7 and 8, 2019, Xu Zhiyong met with colleagues at an informal gathering of civil society advocates in the coastal city of Xiamen; in the days and months after the meeting, Chinese security forces apprehended many of the attendees, including human rights lawyer and co-accused Ding Jiaxi. Xu Zhiyong was detained February 15, 2020 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” (Article 105(2) of China’s Criminal Law) after months in hiding, during which time he wrote multiple open letters and online commentaries criticizing Chinese government policy. On January 19, 2021, the charges against Xu were upgraded to “subversion” Article 105(1).

In August 2021, the government separately indicted Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi. The indictment against Xu specifically cited his articles “People’s Country (人民的国家), “A Proposal to Citizens: Seek Candidacy in 2021 Elections” (公民倡议-竞选2021), “Non-violence” (非暴力), and his “A Beautiful China” (美好中国) book. More of his writing can be found on the China Citizens Movement website, which authorities also cited in the indictment.

On December 8, 2020, PEN America recognized Xu’s courage with the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, awarded annually to recognize an imprisoned writer targeted for their free expression. “We are proud to honor Xu Zhiyong for his indomitable will to speak the truth in the face of grave danger, and we pledge that his voice will not be silenced, nor his name erased. We will fight on his behalf until he is free,” said novelist and PEN America’s then-president Jennifer Egan.

The award was accepted on his behalf by his partner Li Qiaochu, who was later detained. In December 2022, the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing awarded Li with the 2022 Embassy Tulip in honor of her valuable and courageous work as a human rights defender.

Nearly 70 writers and human rights defenders around the world—including J.M. Coetzee, Elif Shafak, Teng Biao, and Helen Zia—joined PEN America in calling on President Xi Jinping to release Xu Zhiyong in a November 2020 letter, and to “ensure he is free to write and communicate his ideas without fear of retribution.”

Xu Zhiyong was also the 2013 laureate of ICPC’s Lin Zhao Memorial Award, named after a Mao-era writer who was executed after continuing to write in prison.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued opinions in November 2020 and September 2021 deeming the detentions of Xu and Ding to be arbitrary under international law, and has called for their immediate release. The Chinese government continues to ignore these opinions, which are quasi-judicial rulings.

About PEN America

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. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057


(2023 年4月10日讯)中国作家、民权活动家、律师许志永今天被以“颠覆国家政权罪”判处十四年徒刑。美国笔会谴责此判决,并呼吁立即无条件释放许志永及其同案被告丁家喜。 许志永是美国笔会2020年笔会/芭比自由写作奖得主

许志永是一位长期民权领袖,于 2020年被拘留,是在撰写一篇文章(劝退书),批评中国国家主席习近平,包括他对新冠疫情处理等领导问题,并呼吁其辞职后。 许案是基于他与律师丁家喜进行的和平民权工作,而后者在同一天被判处十二年徒刑。此判决是在许丁两人分别于2022年6月22日和24日庭审九个多月后作出的,他们在今天确认定判决前一直被关押。


许丁都指称自己在审前拘留期间遭受酷刑,包括使用“老虎凳”刑具和剝夺食物饮水等,这些指控是可信的。 2021年2月6日,许志永的未婚妻、维权人士李翘楚因发布有关许丁两人在拘留期间遭遇的信息(包括遭受酷刑的报告),被以涉嫌“煽动颠覆国家政权罪”拘留。 李目前仍被关押,其律师的报告显示她的身体健康状况在监禁中严重恶化。

虽然判决书尚未公开,但对许丁的起诉书是将和平倡导增加公民参与国家作为“颠覆”。 当局称,“公民运动”的组织、许志永所谓“攻击和诽谤”政治制度的文章,以及许志永文章的传播,都是犯罪活动的证据。 这些活动受到许志永、丁家喜的言论和结社自由权的保护,而中国政府对许丁提出指控、定罪和判刑,违反了中国国内法及其应尊重言论和结社自由权以及防止酷刑的国际法义务。

“为自由、公义、爱,我以受苦为荣耀。我不相信谎言的流沙之上能够筑起民族复兴的大厦;我不相信强权与奴役是中华民族永恒的宿命;我不相信自由的春风永远隔离在高墙之外;我不相信漫漫长夜永无明日。”一一 许志永的法庭陈述,2023年4月9日

美国笔会中国研究和文宣负责人代安玲(Angeli Datt)说:“这一判决是对言论自由的无耻攻击。中国政府将许志永作为国家之敌,是因为他写了公民参与和公正公平的中国。 这一判决表明中国共产党根本没有安全感,他们害怕一个人的强大声音。 这个十四年徒刑的判决是国家政权向中国和世界人民隐敝许志永,采取了令人震惊和绝望的行动。 但他的作品在监狱牢房之外依然存在,而国家永远阻止不了他的话语激励他人。”
“所有关心民族前途的中国人,都需要担起我们这一代人的历史责任,这个责任就是根除专制,建设美好中国。……只要我们一起努力,自由之光,民主之光和法治之光一定会照亮神州大地!”一一丁家喜的法庭陈述,2023 年 4 月 9 日



2019 年12月7 – 8日,许志永在沿海城市厦门举行的公民社会倡导者非正式聚会上会见了同事; 在会议结束后的几天和几个月里,中国安全机构逮捕了许多与会者,包括人权律师及其同案被告丁家喜。 许志永在躲藏数月后,于 2020年2月15日以“煽动颠覆国家政权”(中国刑法第 105 条第2款)的罪名被拘押。在此期间,他写了多封批评中国政府政策的公开信和在线评论。 2021年1月19 日,对他的控罪升级为“颠覆国家政权”(刑法第105条第1款)。

2021年8月,中国当局分别起诉了许志永和丁家喜。 对许的起诉书特别引用了他的文章《人民的国家》、《公民倡议议:竞选2021》、《非暴力》,及其《美好中国》一书。他的更多文章可以在中国公民运动网站上找到,当局在起诉书中也引用了该网站。

2020年12月28日,美国笔会授予许志永笔会/芭比自由写作奖,以表彰他的勇气。该奖项每年颁发一次,以表彰因自由表达而被监禁的作家。小说家、美国笔会时任会长詹妮弗·伊根(Jennifer Egan)说:“我们自豪地表彰许志永,为他面对严重危险时坚定不移讲真话的意志,我们保证他的声音将不会沉寂,他的名字也不会被抹掉。我们将代他出战,直到他获得自由。”


世界各地近七十位作家和人权捍卫者,包括库切(J.M. Coetzee)、艾丽芙·沙法克(Elif Shafak)、滕飚和谢汉兰(Helen Zia),联署了美国笔会于2020年11月的一封信,呼吁中国国家主席习近平释放许志永,并“确保他可以自由写作并交流其想法,而不用担心遭到报复。”