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In December, Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent human rights activists, once again made international headlines. He was arrested and later charged with inciting subversion against the Chinese government, his only crime to speak "honestly about the tightening chokehold on dissent ahead of the Olympic Games," said Human Rights Watch.

What's less known is his wife, Zeng Jinyan, also a human rights activist and blogger, was placed under house arrest in their Beijing home at the same time, along with her one-month-old baby. And that perhaps it was her blog about their shared life of surveillance, threats and harassment that drew international publicity to her husband's case.

This year, on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, International PEN is heralding the work of Zeng and two other women writers in China who continue to write in the face of great personal risk, Tsering Woeser and Li Jianhong.

Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser was born in Tibet, but as a child of the Cultural Revolution never learned to read or write in her native language. That didn't stop her from wanting the Chinese "to learn the truth about Tibetan history, culture, religion and traditions." In mainland China her books are banned, her two blogs have been shut down, she is unemployed and her movements are sometimes restricted. Yet she has become widely known as one of China's most respected writers on Tibet.

Chinese freelance internet writer Li Jianhong ("Xiao Qiao") is a leading Shanghai-based dissident and vocal advocate for freedom of expression and the press. Two independent Chinese websites that she founded and edits are now blocked. She has been subject to intense police harassment for her critical writings published online and peaceful dissident activities.

International PEN is urging you to protest the restrictions imposed on each of these women, who continue to seek out overseas websites, publishers, and foreign news outlets to get their voices heard - especially during the current attack on dissent just before the Olympics.

Amid the crackdown, "aimed at silencing those who may attempt to use the Games as an opportunity to raise criticism of the authorities, there are fears that all three women are at increasing risk of arrest and lengthy imprisonment," International PEN warns.

To send an appeal, see:

See next week's "Communiqué" for other IFEX member activities to mark International Women's Day, and tune in online to the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) on 8 March for 24 hours of programming for women, by women:

(Photo: Zeng Jinyan with husband Hu Jia and their baby. Photo courtesy of International PEN)

(4 March 2008)

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