During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison till 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.
  • Chen Yongzhou
    A Mud Battle Fought in A Quagmire

    In China, according to Tienchi Martin-Liao, journalists face two major problems: censorship from officials who issue instructions on how and whether or not to report a story, and corruption in the form of “red envelopes” (bribes), which have become many journalists’ main source of income.


  • Ye Fu and Friends

    On the rise and fall (for now) of the popular Butcher Shop, an innovative philanthropic e-commerce project that provides financial aid to families of political prisoners. The venture is organized by Rice-Delivery-Party, a writer/activist collective led by the author and blogger Ye Fu.


  • Yan Lianke
    Yan Lianke: A Master of Sarcasm

    Independent Chinese PEN Center president Tienchi Martin-Liao profiles celebrated writer Yan Lianke. Longlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, Yan is known to provoke and expose the CCP, despite official bans and censorship.


Fearless, Ink.