Writers Decry Detentions During Clinton Visit to China
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, February 21, 2009—Writers reacted angrily to reports that members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center and other leading Chinese intellectuals have been confined to their homes or had their movements and activities restricted in connection with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Beijing this weekend.
Zhang Zuhua, a Beijing-based intellectual, is reportedly being prevented from leaving his home by members of the National Security Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Several others, including Jiang Qisheng, vice-chairman of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, are being monitored by National Security policemen. Jiang was reportedly warned not to attempt to meet with Secretary of State Clinton and is forced to travel in police cars when he leaves his home. The targets of the intimidation and restrictions are all signatories of Charter 08, a petition calling for political and human rights reforms that has garnered more than 7,000 signatures since it was unveiled on December 9, 2008. One of the co-authors of that petition, former Independent Chinese PEN Center President and current Board Member Liu Xiaobo, has been in detention without charge since the document was made public.
“This new round of intimidation and restrictions on the movements of leading peaceful activists is a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association—rights guaranteed under international law and China’s own constitution,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “We deplore this heavy-handed attempt to suppress important voices during the U.S. Secretary of State’s visit, and we call on Secretary Clinton to denounce these actions and insist on the right of all peaceful activists to freedom of movement and expression during and after her visit.”
In a move that disappointed human rights advocates inside and outside China, Secretary Clinton insisted yesterday en route to Beijing that while the U.S. would continue to press China on human rights, these discussions would likely take a backseat to economic and environmental issues.
“This is not a case of waiting for the right opportunity or of deciding when in the context of larger discussion rights abuses should be raised,” Siems added. “When the abuses are occurring in the presence of the U.S. Secretary of State and are directly connected to her visit, the U.S. cannot and should not remain silent.”
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 to free all writers currently imprisoned in China, please visit www.pen.org/china.
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105