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PEN protests charges against Zhu Yufu, insisting "poetry is not a crime"

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, January 18, 2012 - PEN American Center called on Chinese authorities to drop plans to prosecute poet and activist Zhu Yufu for "inciting subversion of state power" for one of his poems, saying the move runs counter to all notions of expressive freedom.

On January 17, 2012, Zhu Yufu, a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) and long-time democracy activist, was charged with "inciting subversion" in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, nearly three months after the prosecution withdrew his case from the courts for lack of evidence. Zhu was detained on March 5, 2011, during a crackdown on dissidents believed to be provoked by fears of an Arab Spring-style "Jasmine" revolution inside China. Zhu's poem, "It's Time," calls on the Chinese people to raise their voices for change. No trial date has yet been set.

Authorities have also begun cracking down even more harshly on the Internet, requiring users of China's microblogging services to register with their full, legal names, increasing the possibility of self-censorship and backlash against those who post about sensitive issues. In 2004, Yahoo! disclosed the identity of ICPC member Shi Tao to Chinese authorities after he sent an email about the government's planned censorship of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. He is now serving a 10-year sentence.

"This is a critical year for China as the Chinese Communist Party prepares for a leadership change later this fall," said Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "Instead of clamping down on dissent, authorities should be listening to the rising calls of its people for freedom of expression and allowing its citizens the creative freedom to make its own government better and more transparent. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague, poet Zhu Yufu, and urge all supporters of freedom of expression to raise their voices on his behalf."

In other news, Li Tie, a freelance writer who was detained on September 15, 2010, and tried on April 18, 2011, was finally sentenced today to 10 years in prison on the more damning charge "subversion of state power." News also arose today that blogger Gao Chunlian, also detained during the Jasmine protests last year, was reportedly tried for "inciting subversion" on October 19, but no verdict has yet been made known. Subversion charges are often used by the Chinese legal system to silence writers. Liu Xiaobo, former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced to 11 years for "inciting subversion" for seven phrases in six of his essays and the groundbreaking Charter 08.
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