China: Writers and Publishers arrested in a New Wave of Repression

PEN International joins PEN American Center and the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) in expressing alarm over a new wave of arrests of writers, journalists, publishers and civil society activists in China in recent weeks, apparently for their public support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. According to reports, four prominent intellectuals were arrested on 26 November 2014 alone. They are:

Xu Xiao, a prominent Beijing-based writer, editor, and publisher. She is being held in Beijing’s No.1 Detention Center on suspicion of “endangering national security.” In October, Xu Xiao, chief editor of “New Century” publications, was reported to have been included in a list of writers whose works were banned by China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).  She is also a volunteer lecturer with Liren College, a non-governmental educational institution which runs private schools and libraries and was developed from Liren China Rural Library, shut down by the authorities in 2012. The executive director of Liren College, Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) honorary member Chen Kun, was also reportedly arrested on 6 October on charges of creating disturbances for publically supporting the protests in Hong Kong. Liren College was established under the umbrella of the China Rural Library (CRL), which over the last few years has had several library branches shut down by Chinese authorities.

Xue Ye and Liu Jianshu, independent publishers and bookstore owners also affiliated with Liren College, currently held on suspicion of “illegal business practices”, possibly relating to alleged illegal publications or the selling of illegally published books. Xue Ye is executive director in charge of libraries for Liren College and the former president of CRL; Liu Jianshu, who returned to the country after studying at Harvard and Oxford in 2011, since then had been the former deputy general-director of CRL and managing Liren libraries.

He Zhengjun, administrative director of the Transition Institute, a renowned civil society independent think tank which has now been shut down by the Beijing authorities. Writers Guo Yushan and Huang Kaiping, the Transition Institute’s founder and ex-director, respectively, were arrested in October on charges of creating disturbances for publically supporting the protests in Hong Kong. The charge of creating disorder is commonly used to silence dissent. The Transition Institute, founded in 2007, has carried out investigations in the fields of fiscal reform, local elections, legal reforms, business regulations, citizen participation and education rights. Both of Guo and Huang are ICPC honorary members.

In addition to the four above, writer, poet, independent documentary film-maker and scriptwriter, NGO activist and ICPC honorary member Kuo Yanding has been held since 10 October 2014 on charges of creating disturbances for publically supporting the protests in Hong Kong.

PEN International calls for their immediate and unconditional release,  if held solely for peacefully expressing their views.