Publisher Yao Wentian Detained Amidst Renewed Crackdown on Dissent
PEN International is seriously concerned about the ongoing detention of Hong Kong-based publisher Yao Wentian, who has been held in Shenzhen since October 27, 2013. Yao is being detained on the charge of “smuggling prohibited items,” although at the time of his arrest he was preparing to publish a book by U.S.-based dissident writer Yu Jie, entitled Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping. Yao suffers from asthma and a heart condition and has been transferred to the medical facility of the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. There are mounting concerns for his health.
Write a letter: Your voice matters. Use the information below to write and send a letter.
Spread the word: The simplest and most effective response to censorship is to spread the word. Use the social media tools below to share this page and get the word out.
According to PEN’s information, Yao Wentian was arrested on October 27, 2013, at a friend’s house in Shenzhen while delivering industrial paint. The paint in question is legal, although an import duty is required for industrial usage, of which Yao was reportedly unaware. He was initially accused of "carrying prohibited items," later changed to the more serious charge of "smuggling ordinary goods/items," which according to his lawyer carries a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment. PEN believes that this is very likely to be a politically-motivated charge and that his arrest and detention are connected to his professional activities as a publisher, in particular his collaboration with dissident writer Yu Jie. According to his son, when his father was arrested, one of the customs officials told him, "We finally got you; you're a big fish." His son also reports that Yao had previously been harassed for his collaboration with Yu, notably for his role in the publication of Hu Jintao: Harmony King, a critique of the former president's concept of "harmonious society." In September 2012, Yao reportedly wrote to Google complaining that his Gmail account had been hacked while he was preparing to print the book.
Yao was initially taken to a detention center in Guangzhou but was quickly hospitalized following a deterioration of his health. On November 12, he was formally arrested under an order of the prosecution and transferred to the No. 2 Detention Center of Shenzhen City, where he has since been held at the prison medical facility. His lawyer submitted an application for medical parole in December 2013, but it was rejected.
Yao Wentian, aged 73, is publisher and former chief editor of the Hong Kong-based Morning Bell Press. Since 2007 he has worked closely with dissident writers, including many members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), to publish books that have been banned in mainland China. His publications include the Collected Literary Works of Chinese Writers in Prison and an ICPC Membership Literature Series, of which more than a dozen volumes have been published. More of his publications can be found here. Yao’s arrest comes amidst a reported crackdown by mainland censors on Hong Kong and Taiwanese works deemed "vulgar" or "politically harmful."
Several activists are currently on trial for their involvement with the New Citizens' Movement, a grassroots network of activists in China. They include Zhao Changqing, a Beijing-based freelance writer and political essayist, who is facing charges of disrupting social order. Zhao was detained twice previously for his dissident activities and writings, and has served a total of eight years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power" since 1998. He is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Zhao, aged 45, is married with a 20-month-old son and his detention is placing huge economic and emotional strain on the family.
The movement’s leader, Xu Zhiyong, was arrested in July 2013 and on January 26, 2014, four days after he was tried, he was sentenced to four years' imprisonment on the charge of "gathering crowds to disrupt public order." He is known for his campaigning against official corruption and in support of children’s rights, and he is widely believed to be targeted because of his growing presence on Chinese social media platforms. Xu is an honorary member of ICPC.
Write A Letter
- Expressing serious concern about the arrest and health of publisher Yao Wentian, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release if, as feared, he is held for his professional activities on politically-motivated criminal charges;
- Protesting the renewed crackdown on government critics, and reminding President Xi Jinping of his commitment to tackle official corruption;
- Reminding Chinese authorities that Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provides for freedom of speech and that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, and the right to a fair trial, they are obliged to “refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.”
Send Your Letter To
His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. PEN recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.
**Please contact PEN if sending appeals after February 28, 2014**