Seminar on FoE in China and presentation of the book SILENCED

Report from Seminar and Book Launch

Seminar on FoE in China and presentation of the book SILENCED – China’s Great Wall of Censorship by Øystein Alme and Morten Vågen (ISBN 91-97384445 Amaryllis 2006)

Wednesday 23. August, Human Rights House, Oslo

Panel of speakers:
Øystein Alme, writer, manager of «Voice of Tibet»
Elin Sæther, scholarship holder, University of Oslo
Åshild Kolås, program leader, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo
Torbjørn Færøvik, journalist, writer and China expert

Chair: Carl Morten Iversen, secretary general, Norwegian PEN
Minutes: Elisabet W. Middelthon, board member, Norwegian PEN

Norwegian PEN president, Kjell Olaf Jensen, welcomed all participants to the seminar.  Carl Morten Iversen introduced the panel and gave the floor to Øystein Alme.

Øystein Alme has been the manager of «Voice of Tibet», a short-wave radio station based in Oslo, for 10 years.  The channel is an important voice in the passing on of information about the situation in China, and is being listened to by, among others, the Security Council at the U.N.  China has pledged to abide by the same international declarations on freedom of the press and freedom of expressions as we do in Norway.  However, the Communist Party has a monopoly on almost all communication and exercise strict control and censorship.

In SILENCED – China’s Great Wall of Censorship, Alme gives a summary of his experiences with «Voice of Tibet» for the past 10 years.  The several examples of the scrambling of these broadcasts by Chinese authorities, demonstrate Chinese authorities extreme sensitivity towards uncensored material.

The book lists China´s national and international obligations.  China views any criticism of breaches on human rights as a mingling in internal affairs, and support all countries, e.g. Zimbabwe, with equally strict regulations on free expression and censorship.

New technology is increasingly influencing the daily lives of the Chinese.  Internet, electronic mail and text messages (SMS) are available.  However, the big search engines, like Yahoo and Google, are cooperating with the authorities and have accepted their demands regarding control of all electronic communications.  There are many examples of censorship and subsequent prosecution  of the users of new technology.  Printed media, like the «Tibet Daily», is for the Communist Party, and not for the people.

Journalist writing about corruption risk arrests and jail sentences up to 10 years, a fact that leads to self-censorship.  Still, the limits for what you can write are constantly being pushed.  However, people in China receive more information today than ten years ago, even though the authorities do all they can to prevent it.

The international society holds some power of influence.  With the 2008 Olympic Games as Chinas big exibition to the world, demonstrating their wish to appear as an international super-power, NGOs all over the world will try to influence the authorities.  China will be more attentive now and the Party Congress next fall will send important signals regarding China´s future strategy.  Consequently, this «train» is moving now.

What is China afraid of? Why are they afraid of a small radio station like «Voice of Tibet»?  Evidently, all information that brings alternative news, other that what you hear from state controlled media, makes the Chinese population aware of the fact that they are being deceived.  That is why all critical voices are being censored and punished.

Between 20 and 25 thousand foreign journalists are expected to visit China and Beijing in August 2008.  SILENCED – China’s Great Wall of Censorship has been written in order to demonstrate the importance of free access to information.  As we are approaching the 2008 Olympics, free access for journalists to write about a variety of important topics, the hindring of censorship, reprisals and serious breaches on freedom of expression, will be increasingly important in a country with 1,3 billion people.

Elin Sæther desribed the book as very interesting, demonstrating that «Voice of Tibet» is an important and brave radio channel.

She pointed to the fact that development of the Chinese society had not been at a stand still after Mao.  Chinese economy was previously the main reason that the media were financially dependant on the state, but the authorities have gradually withdrawn subsidies and allowed for more financial independence.  Chinese media are now more in tune with the market economy.  It is no longer possible to print four pages of party propaganda in the newspapers – they have been forced to become more interesting and entertaining.  This is a new trend which has been evolving gradually and the people behind it are writers and journalists who engage themselves in the future of the Chinese society.  The Tian An Men Massacre in 1989 was a set-back for free expressions, but that situation has gradually improved during the 1990ies.

Journalists wish to represent the voice of the people.  They want to write about problems facing the society, not only so called positive, state-edited news.  They want to write about corruption, AIDS, health problems, etc.  There are severe restrictions regarding how these themes may be treated in the media.  Any criticism of party policy is forbidden.  It is therefore important to find ways to present these topics so that they pass through the censors, without too much self-censorship.

It is also important to keep in mind that media coverage varies throughout the world, and that also western media experience censorship and self-censorship.

Åshild Kolås has worked as a Tibet-researcher since 1997.  She first visited China and Tibet in 1988.

She started by saying that it is difficult to generalize about «China» and «the Chinese», even about «Chinese authorities».  Based on personal experiences and extensive field work in Tibet (11 months in Yunnan 2002-3)  she assessed the book as being both engaging and well written.  It is not easy to visualize a topic like freedom of expression and it is not easy to get attention in the media on this topic.

She agreed to the main conclusions in the book: There is a great potential for positive change in the Chinese society.  She also agreed that there are many idealistic, Chinese journalists, but that the federal authorities are also interested in uncovering corruption on a lower, local level.  Local, illegal tax-collection does not benefit the federal authorities.  Consequently, it is the local media that uncover corruption, and this is accepted by the federal authorities.

Chinese authorities have used lots of resources on the development of the internet, also outside the big cities.  In Yunnan, Kolås registererd internet-cafés on «almost every streetcorner», but most internet users were more inclined to play games than engage in serious business or seeking out information.  There was a need for information, and the locals were obviously aware of the fact that this need was not covered through available newspapers and other news media, in particular coverage of «sensitive» topics.

To a certain extent the Chinese are aware of the fact that official media do not give neutral information about what is going on outside China.  This became particularly obvious during the SARS-epidemic, when there was a serious lack of information and, consequently, more or less trustworthy rumors were flourishing.  Information came and went through the grapewine.

When Kolås first arrived in China in 1998, she also witnessed other methods to sustain «law and order».  But harassment always takes place behind closed doors and the location of those closed doors vary from society to society.

Torbjørn Færøvik said the book was both important and practical.  But China has a long way to go, he said.

There is a big difference, also for journalists, between a brief visit in Beijing or Shanghai, and a longer stay where you travel through the country and maybe get a chance to grasp how huge and fantastic this manysided country is.  Walking the streets of Shanghai today is like walking in a big parade.  In the «olden» days, all you could see were people dressed up in Mao uniforms, now it´s all neon-light commercials.

Many things have happened during the past 30 years, both financially and politically.  But changes are hard to measure.  How do you measure – what are the terms of reference?

The degree of freedom of expression is greater today than at any point during the years since the Communist Party seized power in 1949.  There is a new situation for free expression in most fields of society.  Previously, «dangerous» ideas could only be thought, but now you can speak out.  100 million Chinese have access to the internet.  They can read newspapers from all over the world, they can listen to the BBC.  Almost everyone owns a cellphone.  When Mao died there were only one telephone per 800.000 inhabitants. (must be checked).

What happens when 1,3 billion people get access to new technology?  The authorities want to keep control, but technology is always a few steps up front.  This is a loosing battle for the authorities.  Every year millions of people visit China.  They travel throughout the country  and people are influenced by new ideas.  The Chinese people act and think in a long, historic perspective. Only 30 years have passed since Mao died.  We must admit that a positive development has taken place in China.  Six years ago China was selected to arrange the 2008 Olympics.  Let us hope that this will contribute to even more openness in China.

However, during the next two years, the situation will tighten up – we will experience a Gorbatsjov-effect.  The Chinese leaders are between 60 and 65 years old.  From now on, the authorities will be much more attentive and will hit hard on any signs of political opposition.

How should a strategy to influence China in connection with the Olympics be designed?

What should be the angle of international campaigns in order for these to be successful?

25 000 journalists will visit China during the Olympic Games.  The authorities will gradually tighten communication possibilities and working conditions for journalists during the years preceding the Olympics.  Simultaneously, Chinese authorities will have to listen to international signals focusing on (the lack of) human rights and freedom of expression.  If conditions become less strict, it will be because the authorities are pragmatic and see that it pays off.

Torbjørn Færøvik is not very optimistic regarding the 2008 Olympics, human rights and free expression.  Foreign criticism is perceived as unreasonable meddling with domestic affairs.  There is a fundamental insecurity regarding what can happen with such a great number of foreign – and domestic – visitors in Beijing during the Olympics.  Therefore, the authorities need total control.

It is important to try to influence international companies like Yahoo and Google, etc. and to focus critically on their kneeling for the authorities, eagerly trying to achieve full access to the huge, Chinese market.  Critical voices outside China should be activated and supported.

The western world must be aware that the outcome of advocacy may be limited.  Changes in Chinese society will develop as an inner process, not through pressure from the outside world.  For the Chinese, it is important not to «loose face», consequently «noisy» campaigns may often be counterproductive.  These cultural differences must be considered.

«Quiet diplomacy» may work far better than official diplomacy.  Norwegian politicians have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of their talks with the authorities in China, and through Norwegian media one gets the impression that Norway is important and may influence China.  The western world should be aware of the fact that economic development is more important than human rights to the Chinese at present.  The Chinese countryside is still in the middle ages, and the contrast to the high-tech cities is incomprehensible.

Conclusions and recommendations

Most people in China are now better off, but there is a wide gap between the extremely poor and the incomprehensibly rich.  A modern Chinese city dweller easily spends NOK 3.000 (500 euro) on a dinner, whereas NOK 212 (about 25 euros) constitutes the yearly income for a poor farmer.

Economic relaxation and development and new technology will be of great importance for future development in China.  The curbing of free expression has already started.  So far, 70 cases of harassment against foreign journalists in Beijing have been registered.  Tibet is far worse off than China, hence the Olympics may be even more important for Tibet than for China.

There is also an internal migration taking place in China.  Over the past 30 years the Chinese have migrated from west to east and 250 million people will follow.  In this case the valves have to be gradually opened to allow for this huge process which will take place over the next 20 – 30 years. Consequently, our expectations regarding what we may be able to accomplish must be realistic.

Some elements that may be influential:

1. The wide gap between the poor and the rich
2. As very few people will benefit from economic growth, there will be more focus on free expression and freedom of organzation in future.
3. People wishing to work for these rights are under strict control and repression at present.  There will be no sudden, total change, but we can observe that several structures are changing.
4. Strangely enough, harassment may be regarded as a positive sign, because it shows that expressions are being taken seriously.
5. The gradual curbing of human rights has already started. It is important to stress that anyone wanting to influence China in connection with the 2008 Olympics should start today.

Translated into English from the Norwegian minutes by Carl Morten Iversen

Censorship and freedom of expression in China

Norwegian PEN invites you to a seminar and the launching of the
book «Silenced» by Øystein Alme

Wednesday 23. August 10.00 – 12.30, the Human Rights House,
Tordenskjoldsgate 6 B, Oslo

«Silenced», written in English and published by the Swedish publishinghouse Amaryllis, gives an introduction to Chinese politics and legal system.  The author will present the book and a panel of experts will then comment.  After a short break, the floor will be open for discussion.

Panel:
Øystein Alme, writer, manager of Radio Tibet, Oslo
Elin Sæther, research scholar in social geography, University of Oslo, currently writing a thesis about critical press in China
Åshild Kolås, programme leader, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo
Torbjørn Færøvik, journalist, writer and China-expert

Moderator: Carl Morten Iversen, secretary general, Norwegian PEN

The seminar is open – no pre-registration necessary.
You will be able to purchase the book at the seminar.

One year before the Beijing Olympics Norwegian NGOs launch China campaign

PRESS RELEASE FROM NORWEGIAN PEN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NORWAY AND  NORWEGIAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION

One year before the Beijing Olympics Norwegian NGOs launch China campaign

– Norwegian Journalists Associations, Norwegian PEN and Amnesty International Norway share the hope that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will become a positive example regarding the influence of a large, international athletic arrangement and may lead to improvements for citizens of the hosting country regarding human rights, says John Peder Egenæs, secretary general of Amnesty International Norway on behalf of the three organisations

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Chinese authorities promised to improve the human rights rercord in China when the country was awarded the 2008 Olympics.  Only 365 days remain to fulfil this promise.

– We are worried that the situation for human rights in China has deteriorated prior to the Olympics.  The sports and the media are strong players who can contribute in reversing this negative development, adds Egenæs.

Rights under pressure
Basic rights are under increased pressure in China.  Freedom of expression is curbed and internett censorship increasing.  Human rights defenders are met with increased supression, the judiciary is under heavy political influence and torture is widespread.  Several hundreds of thousands are detained in so called re-schooling camps without trials.  In several cases these attacks have increased as a result of the preparations for the Olympics.

New report
These facts are presented in a new report from Amnesty International today.  The report demonstrates some positive changes, but the human rights challenges are still enormous within the four areas which the organisation is monitoring up until August 2008: The death penalty, detentions without conviction, harassment of human rights activists and freedom of the press.

Challenges the athletes and their leaders
– We are challenging the president of the Norwegian Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee, Tove Paule, to convey to IOC that Norwegian athletes and their organisations expect IOC to use their influence on Chinese authorities.  We want to see an improvement on all human rights issues, says Carl Morten Iversen, secretary general of Norwegian PEN.

The influence of the press
– International media may have a positive influence on the situation in China.  Both Norwegian and other international journalist have a responsibility to focus on human rights issues since they – as opposed to Chinese journalists – have been promised increased press freedom before and during the Olympics.  This poses unique possibilities both prior to, during and after the Olympic Games, says Kjetil Haanes, vice president and responsible for international relations in the Norwegian Journalists Association.  He adds that the three organisations will cooperate during the coming year in order that respect for human rights be on the agenda.

The campaign
The China campaign was launched at a press conference at the Human Rights House in Oslo on 7. August and has received widespread attention in Norwegian media.  Campaigning elements include a journalists´ handbook (also in English) and a campaign website to be launched later in the fall.  A seminar for sports journalists is planned for the spring of 2008 in cooperation with the Oslo college.

Oslo, August 8., 2007

2007: China: Zhang Jianhong

Oslo, 21 March 2007

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032, P.R.China

Your Excellency,

I, as Chair of  Writers in Prison Committee Norwegian, PEN protest the six-year prison sentence handed down to prominent writer Zhang Jianhong (aka Li Hong) on 19 March 2007 on subversion charges for his critical writings.

Zhang Jianhong has been detained since his arrest on 6 September 2006, when more than 20 police officers searched his home in Ningbo. He is a leading writer in the region and is known for his dissident activities and prolific writings. He is a member of Independent Chinese PEN centre (ICPC).

Norwegian PEN is alarmed about the heavy prison sentence handed down to leading writer Zhang Jianhong and the continued detention of dissident writers Yang Maodong (aka Guo Feixiong) and Chen Shuqing. All three appear to be held for their critical writings and dissident activities.

I call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, and seek immediate assurances that whilst detained they are treated humanely.

Confident that you, Your Excellency,  will see to it that the Chinese authorities respect the basic rights of Zhang Jianhong ,Yang Maodong and Chen Shuqing and grant them full access to their families, lawyers and any necessary medical care, I remain,

Yours sincerely.

Elisabet W. Middelthon
Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Copies to:

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo
The Norwegian Embassy in China, Beijing
The Chinese Embassy in Norway, Oslo

The Chinese Embassy in Norway is kindly requested to forward this letter by fax or e-mail to His Excellency Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China

2007: China: Chinese writers denied entry to Hong Kong

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032, P.R.China

14 February 2007

Your Excellency,

Norwegian PEN Centre, as member of International PEN, the world association of writers representing members in 101 countries, is deeply concerned by the travel restrictions placed on over twenty Chinese writers who were seeking to attend the International PEN Asia and Pacific Regional Conference ‘Writers in the Chinese World: A Literary Exchange’, held in Hong Kong from 2-5 February 2007.

In a historic meeting of writers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, along with writers from a dozen other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and America, International PEN launched a dialogue on literature and free expression. International PEN outlined plans for its work in the Asia and Pacific region and expressed hope that PEN could encourage greater freedom of expression throughout the area. The conference was marred, however, by the absence of over 20 mainland Chinese writers who were either warned off coming or were denied exit permits by the Chinese authorities. One writer, Qin Geng, had his permit rescinded. Two other writers, Zan Aizong and Zhao Dagong, were stopped at the border at the weekend and denied permission to exit China even though they had both obtained permits in advance.

The actions by the Chinese government highlighted the issue of freedom of expression, which is of grave concern to International PEN. Though the Chinese Constitution confirms freedom of expression and communication, this protection was challenged by the government’s actions and by the recent banning of eight books, including a book by Zhang Yihe, honorary board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre who was scheduled to speak at the conference but was unable to attend.

International PEN is greatly saddened by the recent restrictions placed on writers by the Chinese authorities, and calls upon the government to take immediate steps to protect the right to free speech enshrined in its Constitution and in the International treaties to which China is a state party. We welcome your comments on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Elisabet W. Middelthon, Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN Centre

Copies to:
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Chinese Embassy, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Embassy, Beijing, China

“Write what’s in our hearts and write as a witness to history”

“Write what’s in our hearts and write as a witness to history”:

INTERNATIONAL PEN CALLS FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CHINA

HONG KONG Feb. 5, 2007: In a historic meeting of writers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, along with writers from a dozen other countries, International PEN launched a dialogue on literature and free expression this past weekend in Hong Kong. International PEN’s Asia and Pacific Regional Conference was marred, however, by the absence of over 20 Mainland Chinese writers who were either warned off coming or were denied exit permits by the Chinese authorities. One writer, Qin Geng, had his permit rescinded. Two other writers, Zan Aizong and Zhao Dagong, were stopped at the border at the weekend and denied permission to exit China even though they had both obtained permits in advance.

Empty chairs on the podium at the sessions on literature, exiled writers, women writers, censorship, literary translation, internet publishing, copyright, and PEN’s strategic plan reminded the more than 120 participants of their missing colleagues. Fifteen writers from mainland China did attend the conference.

The actions by the Chinese government highlighted the issue of freedom of expression. Though the Chinese Constitution confirms freedom of expression and communication, this protection was challenged by the government’s actions and by the recent banning of eight books, including a book by Zhang Yihe, honorary board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre who was scheduled to speak at the conference but was unable to attend.

“PEN has nine centres representing writers in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and abroad and has great respect for Chinese writers and Chinese literature,” said International PEN President Jiri Grusa. “But we are very concerned by the restrictions on the writers in mainland China to write, travel and associate freely.”

At the conference, which also included writers from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, the Philippines as well as from Europe, America and Australia, International PEN outlined plans for its work in the Asia and Pacific region and expressed hope that PEN could encourage greater freedom of expression
throughout the area.

“This conference was held in part to celebrate Chinese literature and to establish a dialogue among our PEN centres,” said Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, International Secretary of PEN. “Writers understand that for their societies to flourish, there must be a free exchange of ideas. Writers must be able to speak, write and publish freely.”

At the conference several of the writers who spoke had been imprisoned and had been main cases for PEN’s Writers in Prison committee work, including the celebrated Korean poet Ko Un and Chinese journalist Gao Yu. “They know first hand the role of the writer in the struggle for freedom, and they know the support PEN has given,” said one of the conference organizers Yu Zhang, General Secretary of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre.“PEN is a bridge to societies and a wedge opening up space,” said Nicholas  Jose, former President of Sydney PEN. “I am no longer afraid of anything. Our bodies and our spirits are our own. To speak of ugliness and injustice we have to shout, but our throats are cut when we do,” said one Chinese writer unable to attend who sent a message to the conference.

“We are willing for some things to be burned in the soil so a new leaf will come,” said another Chinese writer unable to attend in a message to the conference. “It is important that all writers get together, and all writers protect the freedom of speech and free expression. We must write what’s in our hearts and write as a witness to history,” said Qi Jiazhen, who spent 10 years in prison in China and now lives in exile.

International PEN, which has 144 centres in 101 countries, currently works in the defence of more than 800 writers under threat around the globe, including 33 writers imprisoned in China. Founded in 1921, International PEN is the worldwide writers organization that works to promote literature, defend freedom of expression and establish a community of writers.

Kinesiske skribenter nektet innreise til Hong Kong

“Write what’s in our hearts and write as
a witness to history”:

INTERNATIONAL PEN CALLS FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CHINA

HONG KONG Feb. 5, 2007: In a historic meeting of writers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, along with writers from a dozen other countries, International PEN launched a dialogue on literature and free expression this past weekend in Hong Kong. International PEN’s Asia and Pacific Regional Conference was marred, however, by the absence of over 20 Mainland Chinese writers who were either warned off coming or were denied exit permits by the Chinese authorities. One writer, Qin Geng, had his permit rescinded. Two other writers, Zan Aizong and Zhao Dagong, were stopped at the border at the weekend and denied permission to exit China even though they had both obtained permits in advance.

Empty chairs on the podium at the sessions on literature, exiled writers, women writers, censorship, literary translation, internet publishing, copyright, and PEN’s strategic plan reminded the more than 120 participants of their missing colleagues. Fifteen writers from mainland China did attend the conference.

The actions by the Chinese government highlighted the issue of freedom of expression. Though the Chinese Constitution confirms freedom of expression and communication, this protection was challenged by the government’s actions and by the recent banning of eight books, including a book by Zhang Yihe, honorary board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre who was scheduled to speak at the conference but was unable to attend.

“PEN has nine centres representing writers in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and abroad and has great respect for Chinese writers and Chinese literature,” said International PEN President Jiri Grusa. “But we are very concerned by the restrictions on the writers in mainland China to write, travel and associate freely.”

At the conference, which also included writers from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, the Philippines as well as from Europe, America and Australia, International PEN outlined plans for its work in the Asia and Pacific region and expressed hope that PEN could encourage greater freedom of expression
throughout the area.

“This conference was held in part to celebrate Chinese literature and to establish a dialogue among our PEN centres,” said Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, International Secretary of PEN. “Writers understand that for their societies to flourish, there must be a free exchange of ideas. Writers must be able to speak, write and publish freely.”

At the conference several of the writers who spoke had been imprisoned and had been main cases for PEN’s Writers in Prison committee work, including the celebrated Korean poet Ko Un and Chinese journalist Gao Yu. “They know first hand the role of the writer in the struggle for freedom, and they know the support PEN has given,” said one of the conference organizers Yu Zhang, General Secretary of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre.“PEN is a bridge to societies and a wedge opening up space,” said Nicholas  Jose, former President of Sydney PEN. “I am no longer afraid of anything. Our bodies and our spirits are our own. To speak of ugliness and injustice we have to shout, but our throats are cut when we do,” said one Chinese writer unable to attend who sent a message to the conference.

“We are willing for some things to be burned in the soil so a new leaf will come,” said another Chinese writer unable to attend in a message to the conference. “It is important that all writers get together, and all writers protect the freedom of speech and free expression. We must write what’s in our hearts and write as a witness to history,” said Qi Jiazhen, who spent 10 years in prison in China and now lives in exile.

International PEN, which has 144 centres in 101 countries, currently works in the defence of more than 800 writers under threat around the globe, including 33 writers imprisoned in China. Founded in 1921, International PEN is the worldwide writers organization that works to promote literature, defend freedom of expression and establish a community of writers.05

The China campaign

PRESS RELEASE

The China campaign

International PEN, as several other international human rights NGOs, is currently planning a comprehensive campaign focusing on human rights and freedom of expression infringements in connection with the August 2008 Beijing Olympic games.

The kind of leverage that the Olympic games represent for the international free expression community towards Chinese authorities cannot be ignored.  Already at the bi-annual PEN Writers in Prison-conference in Istanbul last March, ideas for a China campaign were launched.  The plans were later confirmed by international PEN world congress in Berlin in May and an international steering group has now been established.

The  idea is to focus on freedom of expression infringements in China from March  and through December 2008 in order to monitor any change regarding Chinese authorities´ stifling of dissident voices.  The campaign will run both on an international and local level.  International PENs Writers in Prison committee is planning a number of activities, including a campaign web-site and a possible mission this fall.  Within their fields of expertice and local capacity, PEN centers around the world will follow up with letter campaigns and information specially targeted at journalists and atlethes.

Details for the whole campaign will be presented later this year.  In the meantime, campaign strategy and funding will be one of the themes at a regional Asia-Pacific PEN conference in Hong Kong, February 2. – 5.  The campaign steering group is also seeking information from other groups planning similar campaigns, with a particular view to possible cooperation.

29. January 2007