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PEN Award Goes to Chinese Political Prisoner

abstract:With the news of world-wide protests over China's behavior in Tibet, and the resulting disruptions of the Olympic torch ceremonies for the Summer Games in Beijing, it seems appropriate that this year's PEN Freedom to Write Award go to imprisoned Chinese writer Yang Tongyan who is serving a 12-year prison term for posting anti-government articles on the Internet. What role does the PEN society perform and why should we care?


April 13, 2008
— On December 23, 2005, Yang was detained without a warrant in Nanjing and held incommunicado at Dantu District Detention Centre in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. His family was not notified of his arrest or whereabouts until January 27, 2006, when they received formal notification dated January 20 from the Public Security Bureau of Zhenjiang City, east of Nanjing. He was convicted of subversion of state power for posting anti-government articles on the Internet, organizing a branch of the (outlawed) China Democracy Party

On May 16, 2006, after a three-hour trial that was closed to the public, he was sentenced by the Zhenjiang Intermediate Court in eastern China’s Jiangsu province to 12 years’ imprisonment and four years’ deprivation of political rights.

Mr. Yang has defended freedom of expression at enormous cost, embodying the highest ideals of PEN. —PEN website He is known for his critical writings published on websites such as and

The award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression, will be presented at PEN's Annual Gala on April 28 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Distinguished writer, historian, and PEN Trustee Barbara Goldsmith underwrites the award which amounts to $10,000.

Related and Fascinating Links

Amnesty International Petition for Yang Tongyan.
PEN America Website
The Chinese Anarchist by Scalapino, R. and Yu, G.T. (1961). Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies.
Four Decades of Chinese Literature by Huang I-Shu. Here the author describes how Mao, who was himself a poet and librarian in addition to being a cultural revolutionary, used poetry and song to awaken his countrymen. "Let hundred flowers blossom, let hundred schools contend." Mao Zedong.



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