PEN International condemns the seven-year prison sentence handed down to the writer Zhu Yufu on February 10, 2012, for his allegedly “subversive” poem “It’s Time.” PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release, and that of all those currently detained in the People’s Republic of China for peacefully expressing their views.

Background Information

The following information is given by The Guardian:

Zhu Yufu was jailed for "inciting subversion of state power" by a court in Hangzhou, eastern China, after a trial hearing on 31 January when prosecutors cited a poem and messages he had sent on the internet, his son Zhu Ang told Reuters…

The poem said: "It's time, Chinese people! It's time. The Square belongs to all." References to a "square" might evoke memories among many Chinese people of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, though the poem did not mention it or the 1989 pro-democracy protests. Prosecutors also cited text messages that he sent using Skype. There was no suggestion that the online chat service helped police to collect evidence.
"The court verdict said this was a serious crime that deserved stern punishment," said Zhu Ang, 31, who said he was allowed to attend the court hearing with his mother. "Now my mother is terribly upset, even if we saw this coming."
He said the verdict cited his father's online calls for mobilisation in the name of democracy. "Basically, the only chance that my father had to say anything was when he was being taken out after the hearing, and he stopped and said: 'I want to appeal.'"
The jailing comes as the Chinese vice-president, Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as Communist party chief later this year and as state president from early next year, leaves on Monday for Washington, where he is likely to face criticism over China's punishment of independent political activity and clampdown in Tibetan areas.
The US vice-president, Joe Biden, who will host Xi, met advocates to discuss the "deterioration" of rights in China, the White House said on Thursday, signalling the issue is likely to figure in talks. At a briefing about the trip, a senior Chinese diplomat, Cui Tiankai, indicated his government would not welcome being publicly criticised by the Obama administration over rights. "There are some people who always grab hold of the human rights banner when they want to speak ill of China," he said.
The sentencing of Zhu followed the jailing of two other Chinese dissidents in December who received prison terms of 10 and nine years on subversion charges. Such charges are often used to punish ardent advocates of democratic change.

The poem at the heart of the indictment, “It’s Time,” appears to have drawn the authorities’ attention for its timing around the Jasmine Revolution controversy.

The following is an English translation by A. E. Clark:

It’s time, people of China!  It's time.
The Square belongs to everyone.
With your own two feet
It’s time to head to the Square and make your choice.
It’s time, people of China! It’s time.
A song belongs to everyone.
From your own throat
It's time to voice the song in your heart.
It's time, people of China! It’s time.
China belongs to everyone.
Of your own will
It’s time to choose what China shall be.

Write A Letter

  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of dissident poet Zhu Yufu, sentenced to seven years imprisonment by the People’s Republic of China for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression;
  • Expressing alarm at the crackdown on dissent, in which writers, journalists, and human rights defenders have been targeted;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a state party. 

Send Your Letter To

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

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after February 29, 2012: ftw [at]