Off-Screen
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.
  • Xi Jinping and Sinzo Abe
    Two Ceremonial Acts, One Bad Omen

    As history looms large, tensions flare up between China and Japan. Tienchi Martin-Liao looks at the now infamous events of December 26, 2013: China’s celebration of Mao Zedong’s 120th birthday and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni shrine, a World War II memorial.

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  • Liu Xia (drawing)
    “In the beginning was the Word”

    Independent Chinese PEN Center president, Tienchi Martin-Liao, reflects on the five-year anniversary of imprisonment of dissident writer and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, his wife’s prolonged, Kafkaesque house arrest, the calls for solidarity from Chinese human rights activists, and the power of words.

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  • 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.

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  • Ye Fu and Friends
    Rice-Delivery-Party

    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.

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  • 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.

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Fearless, Ink.