PEN Canada Concerned for Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo

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The following letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of the members of PEN Canada. Read PEN International’s statement here.

PEN Canada Concerned for Liu Xiaobo

The Rt. Hon. Justin P.J. Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

June 26, 2017

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

I write on behalf of PEN Canada, a nonpartisan organization that promotes literature, defends freedom of expression, and aids writers who live in exile in Canada. Today we learned from our colleagues in China that the jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, a former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Liu Xiaobo is an Honorary Member of PEN Canada and the recipient of our 2012 One Humanity award, which recognizes writers who “transcend the boundaries of national divides and inspire connections across cultures.”

As you may know, Liu Xiaobo was arrested and jailed in December 2008 for his dissident writings and peaceful activism related to the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08, and his criticism of the lack of transparency and accountability within the Chinese government. Two days before his conviction and sentencing to 11 years in prison, Liu wrote, “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth. In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.”

According to PEN’s information, Liu’s health has deteriorated significantly during his long imprisonment and he is now receiving medical care in Shenyang, Liaoning province. His wife Liu Xia and brother Liu Hui have been to visit him in the hospital.

We urge you to ask the People’s Republic of China to allow Liu Xiaobo to receive medical care wherever he chooses, including outside China, and that his wife, Liu Xia be able to accompany her husband. We further ask that Liu Xiaobo be formally discharged from the remainder of his prison sentence, and that his wife be released from house arrest, under which she is held without charge, so that they may spend the rest of their lives together as free people.


Tasleem Thawar
Executive Director, PEN Canada