Chinese poet, essayist and activist Liu Xiaobo has died while in custody. Xiaobo was President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and in this role he supported writers all over the world in their struggles against tyranny. His death from cancer, which he contracted while in prison, is a terrible indictment of China’s human rights failures.
He was arrested in December 2008 and given 11 years in prison for his role in Charter 08: a manifesto signed by over 300 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists calling for political reform.
PEN America awarded him the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, and the following year he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Despite a worldwide campaign calling for his freedom, particularly after his illness was diagnosed, China did not relent and never released him.
Everyone at PEN America sends condolences to Liu Xiaobo’s family, especially to his wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for years without charge.
Today PEN America organized a memorial with readings from Xiaobo’s work and testimony from the writing community.