Some important news. PEN America has informed me that dissident writer Liu Xiaobo has been formally indicted by the Chinese government. Here’s the press release:
Liu Xiaobo Formally Indicted
PEN American Center Denounces Move, Pledges Solidarity
New York City, December 11, 2009— PEN American Center denounced the formal indictment today in Beijing of renowned literary critic and PEN member Liu Xiaobo, calling the move “extremely troubling” and urging supporters and governments around the world to step up the pressure on Beijing to free him immediately.
Liu Xiaobo, a leading intellectual who played a critical role in the 1989 Tiananmen protests and who was one of the main architects of the Charter 08 petition last year, was formally indicted by the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate today, just three days after his case was handed over by investigators and more than a year after he was detained. Liu is charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” a provision regularly used to silence writers in China. If convicted, Liu Xiaobo could face up to 15 years in prison. The case will be heard by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, reportedly within the next four to six weeks.
“We are deeply disappointed at this new development in Liu Xiaobo’s case,” said Kwame Anthony Appiah, President of PEN American Center. “We are extremely troubled that the indictment seems to follow the assertion of the Beijing Public Security Bureau that Liu committed a ‘major crime’ in drafting Charter 08 with others, and that he should be convicted of ‘inciting subversion.’ Words are not a crime, and the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by international law and China’s own constitution. We stand in solidarity with Liu Xiaobo, and call on the Procuratorate to drop all charges and release him immediately and unconditionally.”
A past president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Liu Xiaobo was detained on December 8, 2008, on the eve of the release of Charter 08, a groundbreaking manifesto and petition calling for greater human rights and democracy and an end to one-party rule in China. It has been signed by more than 10,000 Chinese citizens across the country, many of whom have been questioned, harassed, or briefly detained by authorities.
Yesterday, at great personal risk, many of those who joined Liu Xiaobo in signing and promoting Charter 08 released an open letter supporting him. The letter, entitled “We Are Willing to Share Responsibility with Liu Xiaobo,” challenges authorities to release Liu or punish them all equally. As of this morning, 318 people had signed, 240 of whom live in China.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit www.pen.org/china.