Rushdie urges Chinese authorities to release jailed writers

Rushdie urges Chinese authorities to release jailed writers

Salman Rushdie has put his name to an open letter, alongside J M Coetzee, Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, calling on Chinese president Xi Jinping to reverse his state crackdown on dissidents.

The letter, which in total has been signed by 120 writers and activists, was released by freedom of speech group PEN International and published in the Guardian on World Human Rights Day on Saturday (10th December). It condemns the Chinese authority’s attack on free expression and calls for "an immediate end" to the "worsening" crackdown on fundamental human rights in China.

Particular cases highlighted include that of HK-based publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai who has now been detained for over a year after publishing and selling gossipy books about China's politicians in Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong. His daughter spoke with The Bookseller in October about her efforts to secure his release and her fears she would never see him again.

The open letter says: "We cannot stand by as more and more of our friends and colleagues are silenced". 

Others imprisoned includes Ilham Tohti, currently serving a life sentence, veteran journalist Gao Yu, currently under house arrest after two years in prison, Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year sentence and his wife poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for six years without even having been accused of a crime.

It also calls for the release of imprisoned and persecuted members of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre: Yang Tongyan, Zhu Yufu, Lü Gengsong, Chen Shuqing, Hu Shigen, Qin Yongmin, Liu Yanli and Liu Feiyue, (and honorary members) Zhang Haitao, Sun Feng, Lu Yuyu, Li Tingyu, Huang Qi and Su Changlan.

"Today we call for their words to reverberate across the globe as we commit to fighting for their freedom until China heeds our call," the letter says. "On days like today we have to reaffirm our refusal not to be complicit in their silence. We have to use our own words to give power to theirs. China and the rest of the world can only be enriched by these opinions and voices. We therefore urge the Chinese authorities to release the writers, journalists, and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions. We urge them to uphold freedom of expression and all human rights."