(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International mourns the death on 31 December 2010 of writer, poet and playwright Zhang Jianhong, who had been suffering from a rare neurological disorder since early 2007, shortly after his arrest on subversion charges for his critical writings. Repeated calls for medical parole were turned down by the authorities, until he was finally released on 5 June 2010 in critical condition after serving nearly four years of his six-year prison sentence. He was fifty-two years old. PEN International considers Zhang Jianhong to have been sentenced in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a state party.
According to PEN International's information, writer Zhang Jianhong was diagnosed in May 2007 with muscle atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system, and his condition rapidly deteriorated in prison. In October 2007, he was transferred to Zhejiang Provincial Prison Hospital, Hangzhou, eastern China, and on 5 June 2010 he was released on medical parole in critical condition. He remained at a hospital in Ningbo city, Zhejiang Province, in the east of China, requiring intensive care and dependent on a ventilator, until his death on 31 December 2010.
A prominent poet, playwright and author, Zhang Jianhong (aka Li Hong) was arrested in September 2006 and sentenced in March 2007 to six years in prison for writing articles critical of the government. Zhang started publishing his poems in the 1980s, and was previously imprisoned from 1989-1991 for his pro-democracy activities. In August 2005 he founded the literary website Aiqinhai ( http://www.aiqinhai.org/ ), of which he was editor-in-chief, which was banned by the authorities in 2006. Before his 2006 incarceration, he was a regular contributor to the overseas Chinese sites Boxun ( http://www.boxun.com ) and The Epoch Times ( http://www.dajiyuan.com ). He was a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and an honorary member of Melbourne and American PEN Centres.
Readers are encouraged to send messages of support and condolence to Zhang Jianhong's family via the Independent Chinese PEN Centre: [email protected]