I woke up this morning to the news from AFP via China Digital Times of further crackdown on dissent activities in China. The target this time is the annual prize presentation dinner of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC). This is the second incident this month that members of this organisation have been targeted by Chinese authorities. All these were done, presumably, in the name of creating harmony for next year’s Beijing Olympics.
The first incident involves the arresting of Wang Dejia (pen name Jing Chu) on 13 December 2007 in Guilin of Guangxi Province. It is believed that Wang’s arrest is related to an online article he published at Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum), in which he criticized the PRC government’s human rights situation ahead of next year’s Olympic Games. With the arrest of Wang Dejia, the total number of writers ICPC believes are unjustly imprisoned in China has risen to 41.
Two days ago (21 December), Beijing Police summoned Liu Xiaobo, an Internationally renowned political essayist and the organiser of this year’s ICPC annual prize presentation dinner, and asked him to call off the function. It is understood that around 20 people who have plans of attending the dinner are now under surveillance and have been officially warned to stay at home. Two writers have been detained by the police. They are Shanghai-based writer Li Jianhong and a poet Liao Yiwu from Chengdu. Both Li and Liao are due to receive awards at the ICPC annual event.
The ICPC is an official affiliate of International PEN, the global association of writers dedicated to freedom of expression and the defence of writers suffering government repression. Founded in 2001 by a group of Chinese writers in exile and in China, the ICPC fights for the rights of Chinese language writers to freedom of expression and publication. ICPC has a web site for members to post their works, which will otherwise have not been published due to political suppression.
It is believed that government authorities in China deliberately targets ICPC in retaliation to International PEN for launching its “We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression” campaign earlier this month. In August 2007, the Chinese government launched a major publicity offensive for the Olympics under the slogan “We Are Ready.” PEN’s campaign, an initiative led by the ICPC and PEN centres in the US and Canada, counters that public relations effort by reminding the world that China continues to deny its citizens the fundamental right to freedom of expression and suggesting that Chinese authorities now have 231 days until the opening ceremonies to release 41 writers and journalists currently languishing in Chinese prisons in order to live up to its pre-Olympics promises to improve its human rights record.
Liu Xiaobo condemned last Friday’s unreasonable act of harassment when he said:
The crude intervention of the police has no legal basis and is without reason… it is a barbaric and illegal act from the law enforcers and is a blatant abuse of human rights. It makes the government’s promise to the outside world of ‘Olympic human rights’ ring hollow.