Category Archives: PEN International News

Nearly 1,000 Writers and Linguists Sign Open Letter Demanding China Release Tibetan Language Advocate

Today marks four years since Tashi Wangchuk was secretly detained for his work advocating for Tibetan language rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2020

(New York, NY) – PEN America released an open letter signed by nearly 1,000 writers, linguists, translators, and language rights advocates calling for the immediate release of Tashi Wangchuk. Exactly four years ago today, on January 27, 2016, Chinese officials secretly detained Wangchuk for his activism on Tibetan language rights. In 2018, after a one-day trial, he was sentenced to five years in prison on false charges of “inciting separatism.” PEN America has long led a global campaign for Wangchuk’s release.

“We are deeply concerned that Tashi’s arrest and trial have been marked by a lack of due process, including the fact that Tashi was reportedly tortured prior to his trial,” the letter reads. “We believe that the right of everyone to learn, teach and develop their native language must be protected. As such, we call upon the government of the People’s Republic of China to release Tashi Wangchuk, and to honor its own domestic and international obligations to uphold ethnic minorities’ rights to learn and develop their own spoken and written languages.”

“The freedom to write is meaningless without the freedom to speak one’s own language, and PEN America vehemently supports linguistic and cultural rights,” said author Jennifer Egan, PEN America’s president. “Tashi has been unjustly arrested and detained for advocating on behalf of Tibetan speakers throughout China who wish to communicate freely and understand each other. We demand his immediate release, and we demand that his calls for linguistic freedom be satisfied.”

Chinese officials used Wangchuk’s participation in a New York Times documentary and article to charge him with “inciting separatism” in 2016. Wangchuk, who has denied ever calling for separatism, has long been a peaceful advocate for Tibetan language rights, and has advocated for the use of the Tibetan language in both government offices and in education. Chinese officials have severely curtailed the ability of schools and public institutions to teach the Tibetan language and have instituted harsh assimilation tactics that infringe on Tibetans’ linguistic rights.

“Tashi’s continued imprisonment and harsh treatment at the hands of Chinese authorities is a stain on China’s government and its unfulfilled promises of securing the linguistic rights of minority groups,” said James Tager, deputy director of free expression research and policy at PEN America, which organized the open letter. “Tashi’s peaceful advocacy for the Tibetan language is, at its core, advocacy for a universal human impulse: the right to use and celebrate one’s mother tongue. For that, he has been treated like a criminal. Tashi has never had a fair trial, and every day he is imprisoned is a day he is unjustly deprived of due process and his freedom.”

Prior to his arrest, Tashi had attempted to sue the Chinese government to restore the use of the Tibetan language in Yushu prefecture, a predominantly Tibetan populated area outside the official Tibetan Autonomous Region. While that earned him an international reputation, it led to reprisals from the Chinese government, including his eventual imprisonment. Tashi was held for months without his family being notified, and his right to access a lawyer reportedly remains severely curtailed.

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Michel Anne-Frederic DeGraff, Linguistics Society of America:
“The Chinese government’s effort to label Tashi’s linguistic advocacy as ‘separatism’ is something that strikes at the heart of linguistic study. Simply put, advocacy for one’s native language is no crime. On the contrary, it’s a basic human right. As linguists, we also know that teaching children in their native language is fundamentally a matter of educational best practice, as it provides them with the best tools for effective literacy and for quality education in all subject matters. The LSA is proud to have signed the petition for Tashi’s release, not only because of the moral urgency of calling for his release, but because we recognize the clear benefits of the sort of native-language education that Tashi was advocating. We do hope that Tashi will be freed and that he will be able to continue helping his community.”

Paula M. Krebs, Modern Language Association:
“As members of the MLA community, we understand that preserving a language is vital to preserving a culture. And we recognize that freedom of expression is fundamental to the pursuit of education and equality for all people. The continued imprisonment of Tashi Wangchuk has broad implications for the increasing suppression of these basic rights in China and for free expression worldwide. To put it simply: linguistic rights are human rights.”

Catrina Wessels, PEN Afrikaans:
“PEN Afrikaans unreservedly joins the call for Tashi Wangchuk’s release. We believe strongly that linguistic diversity should be preserved and that peaceful language advocacy, conducted entirely within the parameters of local and international laws, should be celebrated, not punished.”

Source: https://pen.org/press-release/nearly-1000-writers-and-linguists-sign-open-letter-demanding-china-release-tibetan-language-advocate/

THE DEMOCRACY OF THE IMAGINATION MANIFESTO

PEN International was founded in London in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, emphasize the role of literature in developing understanding, stand for freedom of expression and act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, silenced, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views. Continue reading

Jennifer Clement wrote to Tienchi Martin-Liao

Dear Tienchi Martin-Liao, president of ICPC

You are well aware of how close to my heart the Independent Chinese PEN Centre is. In our troubled times, it is a sign of hope that you are meeting in Hong Kong to celebrate the centenary of the May Fourth Movement. PEN benefitted from this anti-imperialist movement and its defence of Chinese culture by including the active participation of Chinese writers as early as 1924, just after our first PEN International congress in 1923. Continue reading

PEN International: Resolution on the People’s Republic of China (2018)

 (Approved by the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 84th World Congress, in Pune, India from 25-29 September 2018)

PEN International has for many years expressed concern about serious and sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including through resolutions adopted at its annual Congresses, most recently at its 83rd World Congress in September 2017. Continue reading

Open letter to Google on reported plans to launch a censored search engine in China

Dear Mr Pichai,

Like many of Google’s own employees, we are extremely concerned by reports that Google is developing a new censored search engine app for the Chinese market. The project, codenamed “Dragonfly”, would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights. The Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy; by accommodating the Chinese authorities’ repression of dissent, Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China. Continue reading

PEN AMERICA TO HONOR IMPRISONED UKRAINIAN WRITER AND FILMMAKER OLEG SENTSOV WITH 2017 PEN/BARBEY FREEDOM TO WRITE AWARD

NEW YORK—PEN America announced today that it will honor Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, an activist imprisoned on spurious charges in Russia, with the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at its annual Literary Gala on April 25 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Continue reading

HISHAM MATAR TAKES $75,000 PRIZE FOR BOOK OF THE YEAR AT REIMAGINED PEN AMERICA LITERARY AWARDS CEREMONY

NEW YORK–Hisham Matar was awarded the inaugural PEN/Jean Stein Book Award for his memoir The Return (Penguin Random House) Monday night at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in a dramatic live announcement. Continue reading

World Poetry Day 2017

21 March 2017

‘Poetry – with its ancient history, its musicality, and its attention to symbol and metaphor – runs through all of us. Rooted in oral tradition, poetry is deeply connected to our collective humanity. And poetry is also a resilient and long-lasting political tool that has been used worldwide by dissident voices calling out for change. At PEN it’s impossible for us to celebrate World Poetry Day without also recognising that there are those for whom speaking out in verse has resulted in imprisonment. This year we are highlighting the cases of three such poets: Amanuel Asrat, Dareen Tatour, and Liu Xia. We urge you to take action today and to join us in appealing for justice for each of them. Details of how to speak out can be found below. Continue reading