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PEN American Center concerned over "virtual lockdown" on freedom of expression

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, February 3, 2012 - PEN American Center today expressed concern regarding the Chinese government's crackdown on freedom of expression in Tibet after official media reported that authorities cut Internet and mobile phone service in the region, and called on the government to "adhere to international standards of freedom of expression and allow citizens to report freely and independently on the situation."

According to PEN's information, authorities disrupted Internet and mobile phone service in a more than 30 mile area around Kardze Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, where citizens have clashed with police and where at least two Tibetans have been killed. The crackdown is a result of a string of self-immolations by Buddhist monks and nuns who have set themselves alight in protest against conditions in their monasteries and a lack of freedom in Tibet in general, and there are reports that eastern Tibet is under de facto martial law.

Earlier this week, a crew from CNN was detained by authorities while trying to report on the situation and then thrown out of the region, and several other foreign journalists have been turned away. PEN has also received reports that Tibetan language print and copy shops have also been shuttered, and that Tibetan language blogs and web sites have been shut down.

"The crackdown on freedom of expression in China is extensive - from members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in Beijing to this virtual lockdown in Tibet," said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International programs at PEN American Center. "The only way to truly foster security in China or any country is to allow people their fundamental right to express themselves and exchange information without fear of arrest, and to allow journalists and other foreign observers to report on the situation independently. We call on the government to lift all restrictions of freedom of expression immediately."

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