©Simone Ahrend, sah-photo
The Chinese blogger and human rights activist Liu Dejun was born in the province of Hu Bei in 1976. After graduating from a police academy, he worked as a teacher for several years in a prison. From listening to Western radio stations, he learned of human rights activists and the problems they faced; he was both impressed and distraught. In 2000, he quit his job and went to Beijing to unite with other dissidents and human rights activists. In 2003, he began to document human rights violations in the working-class town of Guangdong, while himself working at one of the large factories there. Five months later, he was fired. He was accused of informing the migrant laborers working with him about their working rights. On numerous occasions, he was given warnings and was arrested. In 2007, he founded an NGO with the goal of educating migrant workers on legal matters to protect them from arbitrary acts and exploitation. Again he was taken into custody for a short period. Upon his release, he fought for the rights of people whose homes were illegally torn down to make way for huge housing projects. These homeowners had to flee and were in no position to help themselves. In 2010, he was thrown into jail once more, where he was maltreated and then abandoned in a suburb of Beijing. His story was made into an impressive film by the artist Ai Weiwei. Maltreatment by the police and the use of arbitrary force during pursuit and arrest remain central themes of his blogs. When he appealed that in China, too, people should follow the example of the Arab Spring, he was again arrested and maltreated, as his blogs testify. Increasing numbers of his friends have disappeared, his family has been interrogated and harassed. Thanks to the organization “Frontline Defenders” he was able to go to Ireland and participate in an English course. From November 2013 to November 2016, he has taken part in the Writers in Exile Program of German PEN in Nuremberg. Since his Chinese blog was censored and cancelled in February 2014, Liu Dejun went on to report (also in German) about human rights issues in his homeland on the newly established website www.freeinchina.org. Since the winter semester of 2015, Liu Dejun is studying Political Science and Public Law at the University of Erlangen. In 2017, he plans to study law with the intention of helping to establish a more just legal system in China. A text by him will be published in the German PEN anthology Zuflucht in Deutschland. Texte verfolgter Autoren (S. Fischer) in 2017.