Liu Xiaobo

Authorities bar mainland writers from visiting city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Six mainland writers were barred from travelling to Hong Kong to attend a conference organised by the Chinese branch of PEN International, the writers' organisation said yesterday.

They include outspoken scholar Cui Weiping, the winner of an award at a ceremony held yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Others prevented by the authorities from leaving the mainland included former journalism professor Jiao Guobiao and journalist Zan Aizong.

Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo was a former president of the society.

Nonetheless, a handful of writers from the mainland and those living in exile overseas were able to travel to Hong Kong attend the event.

They included writer Ye Fu, who won the society's Freedom to Write award, veteran journalist Gao Yu, retired official Yao Jianfu, London-based writer Ma Jian and exiled writer Bei Ling, who works in Taiwan.

Mainland-born academic Dr Xu Zerong, released last month after serving an 11-year jail sentence for leaking state secrets and illegal business operations, belatedly received a prize that was awarded to him in 2009 while he was still in prison.

Xu, who wrote the manuscripts of four books while in in jail, told the conference that 'writing ... is a trump to overcome fear, imprisonment and isolation.'

Yao, who thanked the authorities for allowing him to travel, likened the mainland's tight control on speech to a pressure cooker. 'It looks stable outside, but if you don't let some steam out, it will explode one day,' he said.

In February, mainland authorities launched their harshest crackdown on dissent in years, fearing revolts similar to those in the Arab world could spread to the mainland. Amnesty International says more than 130 activists and lawyers were have been detained.

Several members of the PEN American Centre travelled to Beijing last week in an attempt to meet writers and activists, but they only managed to talk with a few, trip organiser Larry Siems said.

Only three of 14 writers invited to a US Embassy-hosted forum were able to attend. Other invitees, including blogger Liu Di, were pressured by authorities not to attend while rights lawyer Mo Shaoping and writer Dai Qing were unable to meet alone with delegation members, also apparently due to official pressure, he said.

'It's really discouraging and shocking to see the level of intrusion in and control exerted on people's lives,' Siems said. 'The enforced silence in which they are now living is spreading throughout the literary community.'