New York City, December 25, 2009—PEN American Center President Kwame Anthony Appiah issued the following statement in response to the conviction of writer and fellow PEN member Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced today by a Beijing court to 11 years in prison for his writings:

“The show trial of Liu Xiaobo by the Chinese authorities is a scandal. It denies him his rights under international human rights law and basic morality. It makes a mockery of the promises of freedom in the Chinese Constitution. And it confirms that, for all the superficial changes of recent years, China still has a profoundly totalitarian regime. I especially deplore the cynicism of the decision to announce this sentence when so many people around the world are celebrating a season of peace and goodwill.

“PEN American Center stands in solidarity with our fellow writer, Liu Xiaobo, and with his family. We must keep attention on his case—and his courageous example—as we fight for his release in the days and months ahead. The Chinese government must understand how the world views Liu’s trial and conviction. If his great nation with its extraordinary cultural traditions is to play the role in the world to which her government and her people now aspire, the regime is going to have to learn to respect the fundamental rights of her own citizens.

“We wish the Chinese government could find better ways to acknowledge the significance of her writers than throwing them in prison. We call on President Hu Jintao to reverse this injustice and to release Liu and the scores of other Chinese who have been imprisoned for simply speaking their minds.

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, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit

Larry Siems, (646) 359-0594