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We Are Ready: Petition to the Chinese Government

Salman Rushdie, Francine Prose, Edward Albee, Rick Moody and Ma Jian will be among the writers attending a press conference Thursday, May 1, at which the PEN American Center will announce the delivery later that morning of a petition to the Chinese Mission to the United Nations. The petition demands the release of 39 writers and journalists imprisoned in China who PEN believes have been jailed for exercising their right to speak and write freely, which is guaranteed under Chinese and international law.

Li Jianqiang, a lawyer who has represented seven of the writers currently imprisoned in China, five of them PEN members—and who has twice lost his license for defending Chinese dissidents—will speak at the press conference. The aforementioned authors will attend the press conference to represent the thousands of PEN members and supporters who have signed PEN’s petition. Other PEN luminaries and international writers taking part in that week’s PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature are expected to attend as well.

May 1 is the 99th day before the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, and PEN is asking that all writers and journalists be freed before the Games start. “The Chinese government made explicit promises to the world to improve human rights before the Olympics, but if anything this year has seen even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We are delivering our petition now, while there is still time for China to fulfill these important pledges” said Larry Siems, Director of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write and International Programs.

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