Might of the pen – stop retaliation against He Depu

In a press release dated 4 December 2007, International PEN Centre Suisse Romand demands the end to Chinese Government retaliation against the family of their Honorary Writer in Prison, Editor He Depu.

The Chinese government should immediately cease retaliation against the wife, son and mother-in-law of International PEN Centre Suisse Romand’s Honorary Prisoner He Depu for his cooperation with the UN Rapporteur Against Torture, Professor Manfred Nowack.

In his March 2006 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Professor Nowack urged the Chinese to recognize the illegality of imprisoning Democratic Party electoral candidate and “Beijing Spring” editor He Depu because his conviction was obtained only on the basis of a confession extracted after 85 straight days of torture.

In a letter sent December 4 to the newly-arrived Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency, Li Baodong, PEN member, Dinah Lee Küng, said, “In this sensitive period preceding the 2008 Olympics, PEN Suisse Romande would publicly applaud China’s immediate compliance with Prof. Nowack’s report, but if flagrant contravention of the U.N. Rapporteur’s recommendation Mr. He’s detention in Beijing Prison No.2 continues, we urge that fresh meat and vegetables be restored to his diet, that exercise outside his cell be permitted, that his wife, child and mother-in-law be relieved from all detention and surveillance, and that his medical treatment include access to vitamins and calcium to prevent further tooth loss and consultations with specialists able to address his disability.”

Some Facts
So far, Instead of cooperation, the Chinese state has chosen to silence He Depu and his family.

Since speaking to Professor Nowack, He Depu has been singled out for special isolation, denied exercise outside his cell, any meat in his diet, as well as medical treatment for his high blood pressure and his partial deafness due to police beatings.

Over the last year, the Chinese state has stepped up retaliation against his family members resident in Beijing. A police sentry has been posted outside the separate residences of He Depu’s wife and his mother-in-law. During periods of political tension in Beijing his wife and son have been placed under house arrest or publicly tracked by uniformed men. On November 24, Mrs. He’s attempt with her son to reach her mother’s home on foot were stopped by a police vehicle. Mother and son were forced to abandon their journey and coerced into van. For some time now, her son has been included in this restriction of movement: the police sentry posted outside their home registers any visitors on police dossiers: this intimidation has resulted in complete social isolation. Moreover, police interrogations of any work unit interested in registering the son for possible enrolment in his studies has denied his right to education guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The sentencing of eight years of He Depu for exercising his right to freedom of expression was already illegal under the Chinese Constitution’s rules concerning convicting on the basis of information extracted by torture as well as in contravention against the UN Convention on Torture. But to persecute a youngster, and harass innocent family members only betrays the weakened confidence of a Communist Party-run government fearful of independent voices and their brave and determined family members,” said Küng, a novelist and former correspondent reporting from China for many years.


This news makes me voice a personal comment: “China is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations”, say a Wikipedia entry. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the New Human Rights Council, China has obligations towards not only the world, but to the members of its own “civilisation”. In the race for economic status and dominance is “civilisation” yet another word that in fact is going retrograde? What climate for the Beijing Olympics? A sleeping dragon no longer, China nevertheless seems to fear something as low-tech as a pen.