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CHINA: Another writer handed down a lengthy prison term

Friday 6 January 2012 - 12:00am

RAN 01/12 6 January 2012
The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is dismayed at the conviction of another Chinese writer on subversion charges. Dissident writer Chen Xi was sentenced to ten years in prison on 26 December 2011 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in essays published online on overseas websites. His conviction follows that of writer Chen Wei, who was handed down a nine year sentence on 23 December 2011 for ‘inciting subversion’ in four of his critical online articles. PEN International reminds the Chinese authorities of their obligations to uphold the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory. It calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful expression of their views, including writers Chen Wei and Chen Xi.

According to PEN’s information, Chen Xi, a fifty-seven year old Guizhou-based freelance writer and prominent human rights activist, was arrested on 29 November 2011 and sentenced four weeks later at trial which lasted less than three hours on 26 December 2011. The speed of the legal process of Chen’s case is unprecedented. According to the court verdict, his conviction is based on several quotations from over thirty of his articles published on overseas Chinese websites. He has decided not to appeal the verdict. Chen Xi has been held in Guiyang City No.1 Detention Centre.

Chen Xi has already served a total of thirteen years in prison on “counter-revolutionary” offences for his peaceful activism, three years from 1989-1992 and ten years from 1995-2005. He is a member of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, which was declared an ‘illegal organisation’ by the Guizhou authorities on 5 December 2011, prior to International Human Rights Day (10 December). At least ten other members of the group have been arrested since 28 November but all have since been released without charge.

The following background is provided by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD):
‘The case of Chen Youcai (陈友才,aka Chen Xi [陈西]) shares several striking similarities with the case of Sichuan activist Chen Wei, who was tried and sentenced to 9 years ...on December 23. Both Chen Wei and Chen Xi were pro-democracy activists in 1989—Chen Wei was a student protestor in Beijing while Chen Xi organized a pro-democracy group to join the protests in Guizhou, and for these activities the two were imprisoned respectively. But the two have not ceased their activism. They went on to organize political parties, and in recent years, have been at the forefront of human rights activism in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces. The fact that both were imprisoned before—Chen Wei was jailed for six years while Chen Xi spent 13 years in prison—does not bode well for them in their current trials, as repeat political “offenders” are likely to receive harsher sentences. As they are both based in provinces far away from Beijing, the national capital, their cases have so far received little international attention. Both are convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and given harsh sentences. In both trials, the “evidence” was their words or articles promoting human rights and democracy as evidence for “inciting subversion.”’

For a PEN America press release click here.
For a report from The Guardian online click here

Please send appeals:
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Chen Wei and Chen Xi, imprisoned by the P.R.China for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression;
Expressing alarm at the crackdown on dissent in which writers, journalists and human rights defenders are amongst those to have been targeted;
Reminding the Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a state party;
Send appeals to:
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China
Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. WiPC recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

You may find it easier to write to the Chinese ambassador in your own country asking him or her to forward your appeal. Most embassies are obliged to forward such appeals to the relevant officials in the country. A letter or petition signed by an eminent member of your Centre may give make it more likely for your appeal to be considered. Similarly if your appeal is published in your local press and copied to the Chinese ambassador, this too may have greater impact.

See this useful link to find the contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country Chinese embassies abroad
**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 29 February 2012**

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: