Such events as this have been necessary for as long as I can remember. PEN members marched around the Czech embassy to protest the jailing of Vaclav Havel. Twenty years ago, we rose in judgment against the fatwa applied to Salman Rushdie. The attack is always directed to the creative mind, and when we take note as we do today, it always seems to be snowing. Liu Xiaobo’s country has a sorry record of artist intimidation. China supposes to lead the world into the future as superpower in the 21st century, but when it jails its people for their thought, it is mired in the past with the ghosts of emperors and dictators and kings, and along with military thugs and theocracies like Iran’s that rigs its elections and shoots down its people in the street. The civilization of China cannot lead when its revolutionary government simply changes the style of despotism, can’t move forward when its poets and writers and artists, its thinkers and intellectuals, are muzzled in silence. Under such conditions, the genius of a nation withers and dies. Liu Xiaobo writes in the interest of a just enlightenment. That is not to slander or subvert or overthrow. It is to ask for constitutional realization. It is to ask for a country true to itself. That is all that Liu Xiaobo has done, and that is why we call for his release.
Watch video of the writers defending Liu Xiaobo
PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human-rights organization and international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program, which works to protect the freedom of the written word, 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.