Release of Tibetan Poet Shokjang an Overdue Welcome Development
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—The news that Tibetan writer Shokjang has been released after three years in prison is a cause for celebration, even as the atmosphere for free expression in Tibet remains dark, PEN America said in a statement today.
Tibetan writer and poet Druklo, who goes by the pen name Shokjang, was sentenced on February 17, 2016, to three years imprisonment for the charge of “inciting separatism.” Shokjang was originally arrested on March 19, 2015, making him due for release on March 19, 2018, and Tibetan advocacy groups have indicated that he has been released as scheduled. According to the court, Shokjang’s crimes included writing an essay on freedom of religion, sharing online book extracts and news articles, and posting online video footage of police brutality.
“This is a joyful day for those who support free expression in Tibet, as a writer whose only crime was peacefully expressing himself is now out of prison,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “However, Shokjang should never have been in prison for his writings and online activity in the first place, and China still routinely and unacceptably labels peaceful cultural or creative expression from Tibetans as a crime. We call on the Chinese government to release all those who remain imprisoned for their writings, in Tibet and throughout China.”
Shokjang is still under the penalty of two years “deprivation of political rights,” limiting his right to be involved in political activities.
PEN America’s newest report, Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China, an examination of Chinese censorship of social media, includes an analysis of Chinese policies in Tibet that are abusive of the right to free expression. The report, released March 13, 2018, included Shokjang as an example of Tibetans imprisoned for their online speech.
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. pen.org
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected]