NEW YORK—The sentencing of Chinese political cartoonist Jiang Yefei to six-and-a-half years in jail under national security charges is the latest and most serious injustice visited against a person targeted for their political and artistic speech, PEN America said today.

On July 13, 2018, political cartoonist Jiang Yefei was convicted by Chinese authorities of “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegally crossing a national border,” and sentenced to six-and-a-half-years’ imprisonment. Jiang’s trial was not open to the public, and his family members were not allowed to attend. The charges are apparently related to Jiang’s work as a political cartoonist and government critic, who frequently satirized Chinese political figures on the US-based website Boxun.

Jiang, 50, has been in incomunicado Chinese custody since being forcibly repatriated three years ago by Thai authorities from Thailand, where he had been granted UNHCR Refugee status and was awaiting resettlement to Canada. After his forcible repatriation—in violation of international law—Jiang appeared on a state broadcast channel “confessing” to human trafficking charges. In Jiang’s “confession,” which fits the pattern of a forced confession, he showed clear signs of being abused in custody. Jiang was forcibly repatriated alongside human right activist Dong Guangping, who had similarly fled to Thailand to escape political persecution, and who had also been granted Refugee status. Dong and Jiang were tried together on the same charges, and Dong received a three-and-a-half year jail term. Dong’s wife has told reporters that authorities did not notify her that her husband had been tried or convicted.

“This is an unjust result in a case that has been marked, throughout, by injustice,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America Senior Director for Free Expression Programs. “Jiang should never have been charged with a crime, he should never have been repatriated against his will, he should never have spent a day in custody, and he should never have been convicted. The same goes for activist Dong Guangping, another political dissident who was forced to return to China to stand trial on absurd charges even after being granted refugee status.”

“Political cartooning is no crime. It is manifestly absurd for Chinese authorities to treat Jiang’s political cartoons as some kind of national threat,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection.

Jiang Yefei is one of several recent instances of forcible repatriations of Chinese dissidents—including booksellers, activists, and journalists—living in or visiting Southeast Asia. Other examples include Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who was kidnapped by Chinese security agents from his vacation home in Thailand, also in late 2015. Gui, who has received the Prix Voltaire and the Jeri Laber Award for courage in the publishing world, remains in Chinese detention.

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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

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Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org