International PEN welcomes the recent release of writers Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai upon completion of their eight-year prison sentences. They were sentenced on “subversion” charges together with writers Xu Wei and Jin Haike, who were sentenced to ten years in prison. PEN is also seriously concerned by reports that Xu Wei has developed a mental illness while incarcerated. PEN calls for Xu Wei’s and Jin Haike’s immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and seeks assurances of their well being.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai were released from Prison No. 2 in Beijing on March 12, 2009, upon completion of their sentences. Jin Haike remains held in Prison No. 2, and Xu Wei is being held in a different penitentiary in Yanqing, northwest of Beijing, where he was transferred after developing a mental illness while incarcerated.

Xu Wei, a reporter for Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily), Jin Haike, a geologist and writer, Yang Zili, a writer and computer engineer, and Zhang Honghai, a freelance writer, were arrested on March 13, 2001, and charged with "subversion" for their participation in the "Xin Qingnian Xuehui" (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals concerned with political and economic inequalities who used the Internet to circulate articles. On September 28, 2001, the Beijing Intermediate Court initiated legal proceedings against the four, focusing on two essays that had been circulated online entitled "Be a new citizen, reform China" and "What’s to be done," which allegedly demonstrated the group's intention to “overthrow the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system and subvert the regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship.” No verdict was announced until May 28, 2003, when Xu Wei and Jin Haike were sentenced to ten years in prison, and Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai to eight years, on charges of subversion.   

In February 2008 there were reports that the prisoners were suffering from acute medical problems and were not receiving appropriate medical attention.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai on completing their prison sentences; 
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Xu Wei and Jin Haike in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory; 
  • Seeking assurances of Xu Wei’s well being and guarantees that his basic rights are being respected.

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 the Public Security
East Chang'an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. 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 check with PEN if sending appeals after April 17, 2009: ftw[at]