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.
  • One of Liu Xia's Doll Photographs
    Liu Xia and Her Dolls

    Tienchi Martin-Liao profiles Liu Xia in this week’s column. The wife of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo is currently living under house arrest in Beijing. Recently her photography, featuring dolls, was exhibited at the Berlin Literature Festival.

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  • Tsering Woeser
    Woeser, a Lighthouse for Tibetans

    Independent Chinese PEN Center Tienchi Martin-Liao profiles Tsering Woeser, an internationally renowned Tibetan poet and activist writer who reports on the situation in Tibet. Also commentary on the self-immolated monks whose stories Woeser shares in her blog.

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  • Chinese Post Office Logo.
    Categorical Denial

    In this week’s “Blind Chess” column Tienchi Martin-Liao discusses the Chinese Post Office’s role in censorship policy of banning books from the mail and how Hong Kong is becoming a source for black market books.

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  • Book Cover for Dark Road by Ma Jian
    No Place for Incarnation?

    Independent Chinese PEN Center President Tienchi Martin-Liao reviews Dark Road, a new novel by Ma Jian about a couple’s unbalanced fight against China’s cold-blooded one-child policy that is made not to protect, but to destroy, lives.

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Fearless, Ink.