Jennifer Clement wrote to Tienchi Martin-Liao

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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.I am moved by the “Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award” you will be giving at the conference. Liu Xiaobo embodies the very core values of PEN International. His sacrifice has been understood by writers around the world as the promise that sooner than later the respect for Human Rights and Freedom will come back to China.

The fate of another of your very prominent members occupies my thoughts every day. One year ago, I chaired the session of the International Publishers Association congress where the Prix Voltaire was awarded to the courageous publisher and ICPC leader Gui Minhai. The whole PEN family and very especially Swedish PEN is campaigning to denounce the terrible circumstances of his kidnapping and imprisonment and to call for his immediate liberation for him to be able to join his daughter back in Sweden.

We will not hold our back, we will not stop our actions in his defence until he is free again.

I want all members of ICPC to feel the intense solidarity of PEN Centres with your struggle for the defence of freedom of thought, expression, writing and publishing in China. At the last Congress of PEN International, celebrated in the Indian city of Pune in September last year, we campaigned to denounce the intensification of China’s crackdown on Turkic Muslims, largely Uyghurs from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). While there is no official data, estimates suggest at least one million Turkic Muslims have been detained en masse and without charge in political re-education camps under the pretext of countering religious extremism; forced to submit to political indoctrination and prevented from practising their religion or expressing their culture. Among their number are reported to be well-respected academics such as Rahile Dawut and Abdukerim Rahman, writers and musicians such as Chimengül Awut, Ablajan Awut Ayup and Abduqadir Jalaleddin. This is a crime that resonates in all humanity. PEN will denounce it again and again.

Two years after the May Fourth Movement, PEN International was founded in London in 1921. We will celebrate our centenary in two years, and you are all welcome to celebrate it with PEN Centres worldwide. Since 1921, we have built a global web of solidarity, translation, encounters, debates and friendships. We have also given birth to a common voice to face injustice and attacks to freedom to write. May this letter be the messenger that tells you that, in the face of repression, you will never be alone. We stand by your side.

Jennifer Clement
PEN International