New human rights report "Writers in China: Enemies of the State", documents persecution of authors

Year of Chinese Culture 2012 at the Leipzig Book Fair

Coinciding with the opening of the Leipzig Book Fair on Thursday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has published a new human rights report documenting the persecution of 79 writers and bloggers in China. "There are currently 54 writers being held in secret prisons, work camps or in conventional prisons," according to the comprehensive 120-page report, "Writers in China: Enemies of the State." "Furthermore, dozens of authors who criticize the regime are not arrested, but placed under house arrest or threatened." The report also describes the fates of 25 writers who have been massively intimidated by China's state security forces. "The "cultural reform" touted by the Communist party has not effected any liberalization for Chinese authors – on the contrary, it has meant only stricter control and more intimidation. The reaction of many authors is to censor themselves," the STP summarized.

"We are deeply concerned about the disproportionately high number of Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians among the imprisoned authors," says Ulrich Delius of the STP's Asia section. Although these "national minorities" make up only 20 million of the 1.3 billion residents in the People's Republic, 28 of the 54 jailed writers are of these "nationalities:" 16 Tibetans, 10 Uyghurs, and 2 Mongolians. The other 26 imprisoned dissident authors are Han Chinese. According to the STP, the high percentage of "nationalities" among the arrested writers is an indication of how drastically the political persecution has been stepped up, primarily in those regions. Internet authors in particular are being silenced as they attempt to push for the preservation of their traditional cultures as well as for resolving the tensions between Han Chinese on one side and Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians on the other.

The report documents unfair trials that violate Chinese and international law, where dissident authors are sentenced to long prison terms for "undermining state authority." The poet Zhu Yufu, for example, was sentenced in late January 2012 to a prison term of seven years because of a poem. Author Shi Tao was given a ten year sentence for writing an e-mail. Uyghur Nurmuhemmet Yasin has been sentenced to ten years because Chinese leaders felt they had been disparaged in a fable he had written. Tibetan Kunchok Tsephel was sentenced to 15 years because he criticized Chinese rule over Tibet in an essay.

To get dissident writers to censor themselves, many of them are regularly picked up by state security forces and interrogated. They and their families are systematically threatened, lose their jobs, or are imprisoned; their movements are restricted and video cameras are installed in front of their homes to monitor – and deter – visitors. For fear of persecution, fewer and fewer writers speak out publicly at all. And because living under these conditions makes it impossible to work creatively, more and more of them are going into exile.

You can download the report here.