Chinese Essayist Honored with PEN Award

The 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award has been given to Chinese essayist and civil rights advocate Xu Zhiyong. Xu Zhiyong has not been heard from since February 2020, when he was arrested for writing an essay that called for China’s president Xi Jinping to resign following mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

Xu, a lawyer, has been a civil rights activist  for more than twenty years. PEN described his detention as "a targeted attack on writers and those who question the social and political status quo" and reported Xu is facing charges of “subverting state power," which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

“Xu Zhiyong has guts," said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “His essays have served as calls to conscience at pivotal moments in China’s recent history...In his writings, Xu has been a persistent voice calling out Beijing’s intolerance for dissent—and campaigning for social equity, rule of law, and a joyful vision for his country’s future.”

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