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China bars poet Liao Yiwu from attending Sydney Writers’ Festival
According to The Guardian today, Chinese authorities have once again barred the poet Liao Yiwu—author of the heavily censored book The Corpse Walker—from traveling to read from and discuss his poetry and work, this time denying Yiwu permission to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival later in May. China barred Yiwu just last month from participating in the PEN World Voices Festival in New York, an occurrence that spurred PEN Festival Chairman Salman Rushdie to denounce the ban, reported the AP at the time, as “a blatant violation of China’s obligations to guarantee freedom of movement and expression” and “an extremely unfortunate statement on the part of Chinese authorities about its willingness to engage in free and open cultural exchange.”
Liao Yiwu was jailed for four years after his poem, “Massacre,” about the killings in Tiananmen Square in 1989, was circulated in an underground recording and eventually condemned by the Chinese government. China has also demanded that Yiwu not publish his works internationally. “PEN said concerns are mounting that the author may face arrest when his new book God is Red, about the history of Christianity in China, appears in August,” writes The Guardian.
“Liao has applied for exit visas to attend international literary festivals 14 times in the last three years, but has been denied each time, with authorities removing him forcibly from a plane in Chengdu last March.”
British philosopher AC Grayling, who was to appear on a festival panel with Yiwu about China, is quoted as saying, “The litany of [China’s] wrongs could fill pages, and the denial of a basic human right to Liao Yiwu is merely one more symptom of a rotten despotism which is, at the same time, too insecure to allow a poet to travel abroad.”