Research and Advocacy Lead, China

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks an experienced human rights practitioner to spearhead research and advocacy on China and free expression in our PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Center. This is a full-time position within PEN America’s broader Free Expression Programs department, reporting to the Director of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center. The position is expected to be based in PEN America’s offices in either New York or Washington, D.C.

The leadership in China has overseen an extensive crackdown on free speech, implementing new laws and censorship controls on the internet, media, and publishers. The Chinese government’s extensive censorship apparatus limits speech and expression both within and outside its borders, making it a key area of work for PEN America. We seek to break down barriers to free expression through our reports, advocacy, and building solidarity between American writers and their Chinese colleagues.

The research and advocacy lead will chart a research and advocacy agenda in relation to free expression in China and China’s global influence, identifying opportunities for research, thought leadership, and advocacy on individual cases of writers at risk and on broader issues of free expression within and outside China. The position involves monitoring existing cases and identifying new cases of writers and public intellectuals under threat; developing advocacy initiatives on these cases; conducting research and advocacy on free expression in China and with regard to the CCP’s attempts to undermine free expression in the U.S. and globally; supporting PEN America’s Washington advocacy team on D.C.-focused advocacy; and collaborating with partner organizations and organize events, convenings, and/or delegations as part of advocacy initiatives.

The ideal candidate will have first-hand experience in human rights research and advocacy on China and have a demonstrated track-record of effective strategic advocacy. They will bring strong networks, including in the China-focused policy, human rights, and advocacy community, sound political judgment and sensitivity, excellent communication skills, and an appreciation for PEN America’s unique role as an advocate for writers and creative and literary expression. They will have a keen sense of how to push PEN America’s mission and message to create impact.


  • Identify opportunities for and carry out research on threats to free expression within China and committed by the Chinese government beyond its borders
  • Produce a regular cadence of written products, including reports, briefing papers, press statements, op-eds, and submissions to international bodies on issues related to China and free expression
  • Work closely with the PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Center’s writers at risk team to identify and monitor cases of individual writers and public intellectuals at risk in China and contribute to the annual Freedom to Write Index
  • Coordinate and collaborate with PEN America’s Washington advocacy, research, and communications’ teams on relevant advocacy and research initiatives, and with other parts of the Free Expression Programs department as appropriate
  • Follow key developments and trends on free speech and expression in China and key countries where China’s influence undermines free speech and expression; identify opportunities for advocacy or research
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships with a wide variety of organizations and individuals

All PEN America staff are considered to be stakeholders in the development of our shared organization. As such, staff play a role in varied activities within the workplace as part of their job responsibilities. These may include committees or task forces to work on office issues, diversity and inclusion, strategy projects, training or other initiatives.


  • A minimum of four to six years relevant experience, including in international human rights, advocacy, media, and/or research
  • Demonstrated expertise on China; proven experience undertaking research and advocacy on China
  • Demonstrated understanding of international human rights with reference to freedom of expression in particular; understanding of international human rights law preferred
  • Familiarity with Chinese cultural and/or literary communities a plus
  • Demonstrated ability to develop strategic advocacy efforts, network, build external relationships, and mobilize coalitions
  • Excellent research and writing capabilities
  • Ability to represent PEN America and to communicate concerns, positions and, where relevant, strategies to external and internal stakeholders.
  • Ability to work quickly, meet deadlines and work under pressure
  • Experience using social media or other communications tools for professional purposes a plus
  • Excellent written and spoken Mandarin or Cantonese
  • Willingness to travel, as required and appropriate, to conduct research and advocacy
  • Commitment to and passion for PEN America’s mission

Salary and Benefits: PEN offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a cover letter and resume and the contact information for three references. Submit the entire application to Please use “China” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “China – Jane Doe”). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.