Two leading writers and advocates detained and released

New York, December 14, 2004—Two prominent writers and defenders of imprisoned journalists in China were taken from their homes yesterday, Monday, December 13, and interrogated about articles they had written for overseas Internet sites. Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie were released this morning after being warned to stop writing reports critical of the Chinese government.

“The detention and interrogation of Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie demonstrates the Chinese government’s willingness to target high-profile intellectuals in an effort to stem the expression of dissent,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “These two writers have not only fought to express their own ideas but have also supported other writers who are harassed, censored, and imprisoned in China.”

Officers from the Beijing National Security Bureau took Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, from their home in Beijing in the late afternoon of December 13, according to the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN. Security police arrived at the house of Yu Jie shortly thereafter.

The two writers were detained on suspicion of “endangering state security.”

Released today, Yu told Reuters that police appeared to be preparing a case against him. “They said my essays attacked the Communist Party, the government, and the leadership and seriously violated the constitution,” Yu told Reuters.

Police asked Yu to sign and fingerprint copies of his articles printed from the Internet and released him only after copying all documents from his computer, according to international news reports.

Yu and Liu are founding members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center(ICPC), which advocates for the release of imprisoned writers, poets, and journalists in China.

Yu is a prominent writer whose fiction, social criticism, and political commentary have been banned in China. He was one of six intellectuals who recently drafted a proposal that Mao’s corpse be removed from the mausoleum in Tiananmen Square.

Liu, president of IPCP, is a leading activist and writer who was imprisoned in the 1990s after he was accused of serving as an organizer in the democracy movement of 1989. He recently posted articles online advocating for the release of imprisoned poet and journalist Shi Tao. Liu was also an outspoken defender of Internet dissident Du Daobin, who was released from prison earlier this year.

The detention of Yu and Liu follows a pattern of harassment of intellectuals and journalists in China that has intensified since President Hu Jintao consolidated his leadership in the Communist Party by assuming command of the military in September.