His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
Beijing 100032, P.R.China
14 February 2007
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 One writer, Qin Geng, had his permit rescinded.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.
Elisabet W. Middelthon, Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN Centre
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Chinese Embassy, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Embassy, Beijing, China