New York City, October 2, 2009—Calling yesterday’s near-unanimous vote approving a Congressional resolution demanding the immediate release of critic and writer Liu Xiaobo “a critical show of solidarity from the U.S. government at a critical time,” PEN American Center urged the Obama administration to press for the prominent dissident’s release in advance of the president’s visit to Beijing on November.

The resolution, introduced by Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick in June of this year and passed by the House yesterday on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, notes the vital role Liu Xiaobo has played in the struggle for full recognition of the right to free expression in China. A total of 410 members of Congress voted in favor of Resolution 151, with 21 abstaining. Thirty-two members co-sponsored the resolution, which now will move on to the Senate for full Congressional support. Liu Xiaobo is a former president and current board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), a branch of International PEN that is doing frontline work to protect and expand freedom of expression in China. Earlier this month a delegation representing ICPC and PEN American Center met with Congressman Minnick and key House members to encourage quick action on the resolution.

“Liu Xiaobo is the ultimate symbolic figure of freedom of expression and longing for a free and democratic China,” said Tienchi Liao, the newly-elected president of ICPC. “The passage of this resolution calling for his release is the best present the U.S. Congress and the American people could provide to the Chinese on the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. ICPC is deeply in debt for this encouragement.”

Liu Xiaobo was detained on December 8, 2008, for his role in the creation of Charter 08, a groundbreaking manifesto calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China that has been signed by thousands of individuals from all walks of life throughout the country. After being held incommunicado for six and a half months, Liu Xiaobo was formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” Authorities are still gathering evidence against him, and it is believed that Liu will be tried soon, before President Barack Obama’s first official visit to Beijing in November.

“We are proud that the U.S. government is taking official steps to help free our colleague from prison in Beijing,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “It is a clear signal to the Chinese government that its continued violation of the rights of its citizens is incompatible with its aspirations and responsibilities as an emerging international power. As the Chinese state enters its 61st year, this would be an ideal time to show the world that it is ready to accept and protect its citizens’ lawful right to freedom of expression by freeing Liu Xiaobo.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

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