PEN American Center Drafts Petition to Free Chinese Writer

by Staff

A petition drafted by PEN American Center calling for the release of Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested by Chinese authorities on December 8, has received over a thousand signatures, and the organization is continuing to seek supporters, Mediabistro’s blog GalleyCat reported yesterday. Liu faces charges of "inciting subversion of state power" as one of the authors of "Charter 08," a declaration calling for human rights reforms in China. According to the petition, he could be imprisoned for at least three years if convicted.

Liu, former president of Independent Chinese PEN and a board member, was involved in the Tiananmen Square protests and was previously imprisoned for writing "The Double Tenth Manifesto," which contained criticism of the Chinese government. "Charter 08," which was signed by over eight thousand writers, scholars, journalists, and activists despite the Chinese government’s elimination of all Web sites mentioning the document, outlines the need for democracy and freedom of expression in China.

"His case illustrates the lengths the Chinese government will still go to stifle free expression, and the determination of Chinese writers to fight for this most basic right," says the PEN petition’s preamble. "We stand with them in their struggle."

In January, a group of three hundred international authors affiliated with PEN centers worldwide, including Margaret Atwood, Edward Albee, Salman Rushdie, and Umberto Eco, released a letter protesting Liu’s incarceration. The current petition, launched on February 4, is posted on the Web site GoPetition.