Free Expression in China
Presiding over an authoritarian one-party system, China’s leader Xi Jinping has overseen an extensive crackdown on free expression since he took power in 2012 and has further entrenched censorship controls on the Internet, media, and publishers. This crackdown has included attempted cultural and linguistic destruction targeting Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians and other ethnic minorities elevating to potential crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and the crushing of civil and political rights in Hong Kong. As China’s economic and political strength has increased, the Chinese Communist Party has also expanded its censorship apparatus overseas to try and limit expression about China beyond its borders, engage in transnational repression against exiles and the diaspora, and erode international human rights norms.
The Chinese government is the world’s leading jailer of writers and public intellectuals. Writers, journalists, bloggers, and creative artists face censorship, harassment, imprisonment, and enforced disappearance because of their writing or creative expression. Topics deemed off limits include discussion of government policies like those around the COVID-19 pandemic, rights of ethnic and religious minorities, women and LGBTQ+ rights, imprisoned human rights defenders, social issues, corruption, and the lack of democratic reform. Nearly 100 writers are currently behind bars on politicized charges in China and Hong Kong.
Despite the severe risks of speaking out, many in China and Hong Kong continue to raise their voices. Addressing Beijing’s assault on free expression and defending human rights standards globally is a key priority of PEN America’s research and advocacy work. We strive to build solidarity between American writers and their Chinese, Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Hong Kong colleagues and advocate for the release of those jailed by Beijing for exercising their right to free expression.
Read the Latest
PEN America and PEN International Denounce Book Removals From Hong Kong’s Public LibrariesMay 17, 2023
PEN America Condemns China’s Arrest of Exiled Mongolian Writer and Historian Lhamjab A. BorjiginMay 12, 2023
Ahead of United Nations Review, PEN America Finds Chinese Government Has Failed to Protect Women’s RightsMay 11, 2023
Chinese Authorities Must Release “Blank Paper” Protesters and Allow Free Expression on COVID-19 Pandemic
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Xu Zhiyong and the Mighty Pen
Truth-Telling And Its Dire Consequences: PEN America Hosts Conversation with Writers Targeted by Authoritarians Around the Globe
Virtual Solidarity Reading to Honor Imprisoned Women Writers and Activists
Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017) was a brilliant writer and committed activist. As President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, he was a friend and compatriot for writers all over the world who struggle against tyranny using words as their sole weapon.