December 10, 2011 (International Human Rights Day), marks the first anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to our colleague Liu Xiaobo, former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC). One year on, he and over 30 other writers remain imprisoned in China, and many more suffer “soft” detention, surveillance, and censorship. PEN International demands their immediate and unconditional release, and calls upon its members to use this anniversary to publicize the deteriorating human rights climate in the People’s Republic of China and to express solidarity with their imprisoned colleagues.

Background Information

Since China hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics—games it had secured by pledging to the world to expand protections for the human rights of its citizens—the Chinese government has carried out successive crackdowns on its citizens’ right to freedom of expression, beginning with Liu Xiaobo’s detention on December 8, 2008. Liu was arrested for his role in publishing Charter 08, a document calling for political reform that he and 302 co-signers planned to release two days later, on International Human Rights Day. The document quickly garnered widespread support, and now has over 10,000 signatories from throughout China, many of whom have suffered reprisals.
When the Nobel announcement was made in mid-October 2010, restrictions were tightened further. Liu’s wife Liu Xia, a poet and photographer, was placed under strict house arrest at her home in Beijing, where she remains detained incommunicado and is denied any contact with the outside world. At the December 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Liu Xiaobo’s medal and diploma were presented to an empty chair.

In February 2011, another wave of repression swept the country, targeting dissent thought to have been inspired by the revolutions in the Middle East. Police stepped up their harassment of human rights defenders and activists across the country in response to anonymous calls for “Jasmine Revolution” protests. Many were briefly detained, harassed, summoned or place under house arrest, and a number of prominent PEN members in China were among those targeted. The level of surveillance many still face remains stifling.

For the past three years since Liu’s arrest, PEN has been involved in a sustained and ongoing campaign for his release and to promote the right to free expression in China. PEN stands firm in its resolve to secure the release of Liu Xiaobo and all writers who remain behind bars or silenced in China today, in flagrant violation of its own laws and the international treaties which it has ratified.

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 he was formally charged on June 23, 2009, with “inciting subversion of state power.” He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009. The verdict offered as evidence seven phrases that he penned from 2005 until his detention—all either quotations from his many essays or from Charter 08, which Liu had helped draft.

Liu Xiaobo first received support from PEN International in 1989, when he was one of a group of writers and intellectuals labeled “Black Hands of Beijing” by the government and arrested for their part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Prior to his current arrest, Liu spent a total of five years in prison, including a three-year sentence passed in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment, and censorship.

Supporters are urged to write appeals and stage events during the five days from December 8 to 13  to publicize the deteriorating human rights situation in China.

Write A Letter

  • Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of dissident writer Liu Xiaobo and all those detained in China in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, and Article 35 of its own constitution.

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 December 31, 2011: ftw [at]