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Dissident writer sentenced to 11 years in prison

Chinese dissident and acclaimed writer Liu Xiaobo was sentenced on 25 December to 11 years in prison and two years deprivation of political rights for exercising the right of free expression, reports the PEN American Center. Members of PEN gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library on New Year's Eve in a call for action to release Xiaobo.

He has been in detention since December 2008 for "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. Xiaobo is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center.

At the rally, PEN American Center President Anthony Appiah called Beijing's verdict "shameful." Chinese authorities cited exact passages from Xiaobo's writings considered subversive and the basis for his punishment. PEN members took turns to read the select sentences, along with chilling passages from court documents, and poems Xiaobo had written to his wife while serving a previous prison sentence.

"We want to express and explain our outrage, to commit ourselves to working for Liu's release, and to urge all those in this country and around the world who care about free expression to join us," said Appiah.

Appiah concluded by saying, "Old friend, we will not forget you, we will not rest until you are free."

After the event, PEN delivered a letter, on behalf of its 3,400 members, to the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, calling on Chinese President Hu Jintao "to undo this egregious injustice" and free Xiaobo immediately. He is one of five PEN members currently in prison in China.

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