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PEN to China: Let free press tell true story in Tibet

March 20, 2008


For more information contact:
Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105,
Isobel Harry, PEN Canada, (416) 703-8448 ext. 22,
Yu Zhang, Independent Chinese PEN Center, +46-8-50022792,

New York, Toronto, Stockholm, March 17, 2008 – Writers from Canada, the
United States, and
China joined today in denouncing “suffocating restrictions” on the press
and on the flow of
information from Tibet, where a week of protests and repression has
reportedly resulted in as
many as 100 deaths in Lhasa and other Tibetan cities. Warning that news
communications interruptions and censorship remove a critical deterrent
to human rights abuses
and increase suspicions of official wrongdoing, the representatives of
PEN Canada, PEN
American Center, and the Independent Chinese PEN Center demanded the
Chinese government
provide immediate and unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region
and all traditionally
Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces to
international journalists;
restore phone and Internet access; and end all domestic censorship of
international news feeds
and Internet reports from Tibet.

The Chinese government has long prevented international journalists from
reporting freely from
Tibet. For instance, CNN reports its crews have been allowed into the
region only twice in the
past 10 years and never without tight controls on conversations and
interviews. No international
journalists have been allowed to enter or report from Tibet since
Buddhist monks staged peaceful
demonstrations last week to protest continuing restrictions on religious
and cultural activities in
Tibet, and there have been reports of significant interruptions of
telephone and Internet service in
Lhasa and other Tibetan areas since then, impeding the flow of
first-hand reports and other
information as violence spread and the number of deaths rose. Meanwhile,
satellite broadcasts
focusing on events in Tibet this past week have reportedly been jammed
in Beijing and other
Chinese cities, and entire news sites such as the LA Times and The
Guardian have been shut
down, leaving China’s citizens in the dark about the unfolding tragedy.

“This is reminding us of what happened both in Lhasa in March and in
Beijing in June 19 years
ago,” recalled Dr. Yu Zhang, Secretary-general of Independent Chinese
PEN Center. “As the
truth of bloody Lhasa event in 1989 was little known beyond the region
due to the governmental
restrictions on the press, Chinese people could prepare nothing to
prevent the similar bloodshed
from being reproduced in Beijing and elsewhere in China a few months
later. It is unforgivable
to allow history to repeat itself when the whole world is now watching
Beijing for its promise of
the press freedom and openness once more.”

“’One World, One Dream’ is the motto of the Beijing Olympics,” noted
Nelofer Pazira, president
of PEN Canada. “But it seems that Tibetans are not included in that
dream, as the denial of their
human rights and now this violent crushing of these protests indicate.
And the rest of the world is
not being allowed to know that.”

“The Chinese government pledged to the world that there will be no
restrictions on media
reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic
Games – a pledge that’s
completely undermined by its conduct in Tibet,” said Francine Prose,
President of PEN
American Center. “Even with the limited information emanating from
Tibet, it is clear the
Chinese government has responded aggressively to what apparently began
as peaceful
demonstrations. The Chinese government’s suffocating restrictions on
news reporting only fuel
suspicions that its actions go beyond what is necessary to protect
public safety and amount to
another violent crackdown on free expression and dissent.”

PEN American Center, PEN Canada, and the Independent Chinese PEN Center
are among the
145 worldwide centers of International PEN, an organization that works
to promote friendship
and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, to fight for
freedom of expression, and
represent the conscience of world literature. On December 10, 2007, the
centers launched We
Are Ready for Freedom of Expression, an Olympic countdown campaign to
protest China’s
imprisonment of at least 38 writers and journalists, including three
Tibetans, and to seek an end
to internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in
that country. For more
information, please visit,, and
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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