May 8 – May 15, 2008 Edition

PEN Petitions
China To Free
Jailed Writers

New York, May 2, 2008–Salman Rushdie, Francine Prose, Edward Albee, Rick Moody and Ma Jian were among writers attending a press conference last Thursday, at which the PEN American Center announced it would deliver a petition to the Chinese mission to the United Nations demanding the release of 39 writers and journalists imprisoned in China. PEN believes the writers have been jailed for exercising their right to speak and write freely, which is guaranteed under Chinese and international law.

Li Jianqiang, a lawyer who has represented seven of the writers currently imprisoned in China, five of them PEN members–and who has twice lost his license for defending Chinese dissidents–spoke at the press conference.

PEN is asking the Chinese government to free all writers before the Beijing Olympic Games begin this summer. “The Chinese government made explicit promises to the world to improve human rights before the Olympics, but if anything this year has seen even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We are delivering our petition now, while there is still time for China to fulfill these important pledges” said Larry Siems, Director of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write and International Programs.

The petition is part of PEN’s “We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression” campaign, which challenges the Chinese government to release all of the writers and journalists currently imprisoned in China, and to guarantee freedom of the press before, during, and after the Olympic Games. To date, over 2,500 writers and supporters have signed the petition.

The press conference was held May 1 in the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City