Zhao Shiying, whose pen name is Zhao Dagong, was detained earlier this week, after police officers searched his home and took his wife and son in for questioning. Zhao joined the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) in 2004, becoming a board member the following year and the Secretary General this past October.
Zhao’s detention may have resulted from his support for former ICPC President Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas for “inciting subversion of state power.” Zhao is one of the original signers of Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform in China, which was cited in the verdict sentencing Liu.
The day after Zhao was detained, Google announced that the company would reconsider its relationship with China, after detecting “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from” China. Google, according to the announcement, has “evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”
Microsoft, meanwhile, plans to stay in China, as Peter Foster reports from Beijing for The Daily Telegraph, putting that decision in the context of Zhao Shiying's arrest.
Even sadder news for PEN this week comes of course from Haiti, where Georges Anglade, a writer and activist and the founder of PEN Haiti (he was imprisoned there in 1974), was among the thousands of victims of the country’s worst earthquake in two centuries. His wife Mireille was also killed. The president of International PEN, John Ralston Saul, has written a tribute to Anglade for The Globe and Mail.
Writers Simon Winchester and Edwidge Danticat are working to educate readers about the situation in Haiti, as The Christian Science Monitor reports. Danticat, a native of the country (who wrote about fear for us last year), has spoken about the situation there—and the country’s history and culture—with NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and Democracy Now.
Winchester will speak about the earthquake at Idlewild Books on Tuesday, January 19, along with a relief worker from the United Nations, with suggested donations—and any proceeds from the sale of both Winchester’s books and the books in Idlewild’s section on Haiti—going to relief efforts.