International PEN is alarmed by an apparent crackdown on Chinese writers and intellectuals following the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo, former president and board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC). According to reports, over 30 dissidents have been arrested, warned or placed under house arrest and increased surveillance since the award was announced on October 8, 2010, including at least a dozen ICPC members. There is particular concern for the well-being of the laureate’s wife, Liu Xia, who has been held incommunicado at her residence since visiting her husband in Jinzhou Prison on October 10. Such harassment of dissidents is common in China, although there are fears that this most recent crackdown could signify a diminishing tolerance of dissent by the Chinese authorities.

Background Information

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009. He was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" for his role in publishing Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and human rights, and for articles he published online since 2005. On February 11, 2010, it was reported that his appeal had been rejected by a Beijing court. PEN demands the immediate and unconditional release of dissident writer Liu Xiaobo and all those detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested on December 8, 2008, and held under "residential surveillance," a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing until June 23, 2009, when he was formally charged with "spreading rumours and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years." He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009.

Liu Xiaobo is among a large number of dissidents to have been detained or harassed since December 2008 after issuing an open letter calling on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and launching Charter 08, published on December 9, 2008. These activities were part of campaigns to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10). Chater 08 initially gained signatures from over 300 scholars, journalists, freelance writers, and activists and now have over 10,000 signatories from throughout China.

Liu Xiaobo first received support from PEN in 1989, when he became part of a group of writers and intellectuals labeled the “Black Hands of Beijing” by the government, and was arrested with the rest of the group for their part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Prior to his current arrest, Liu spent a total of five years in prison, including three years of "reeducation through labor" beginning in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment, and censorship. In January 2009, over 300 writers signed a petition calling for his release.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing alarm at the harassment of supporters of dissident writer, academic and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence solely for the his peaceful activities and writings;
  • Pointing out that his sentence violates the international treaties to which China is a signatory, most notably Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which specifically guarantees the right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo and all those currently detained in the People's Republic of China for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of Public Security
East Chang'an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. China

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after November 14, 2010: ftw [at]