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Jailed Chinese writer receives top PEN honour

Liu Xiaobo
Liu Xiaobo

A Chinese writer who has been in jail since December for authoring a petition for human rights has been awarded this year's PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

Liu Xiaobo, one of China's pre-eminent dissident writers and activists and a leading figure in the PEN movement internationally, is being held without charge or trial under "residential surveillance" at an unknown location in Beijing.

Last December, he was arrested on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" for helping to pen Charter 08, a declaration that called for political reform, greater human rights and an end to one-party rule in China.

Since his arrest, nearly all of the original signatories of Charter 08 have been interrogated in a push to gather evidence on Liu. Despite the crackdown, the document has now been signed by more than 8,500 people from all walks of life throughout China.

Not that this is the first time Liu has been targeted - time and again he has been jailed and watched by the police for playing a crucial role in the pro-democracy movement, from staging a hunger strike during the Tiananmen Square massacre to calling for dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

The award, which honours international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression, was presented at PEN's annual gala on 28 April in New York.

For more on Liu, see:

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