EMILY ROCHA WRITES: During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States in late Sept., forty-four writers from the PEN American center spoiled the dinner party with a  demand for the release of Chinese journalists and writers who are state captives for nothing more criminally offensive than sharing their opinions.

The PEN letter cites the nearly fifty authors imprisoned in China for speaking out against the government, and highlights the stories of four specific journalists; one who is under house arrest, one sentenced this year to seven years in prison, one serving a decade in prison; and one who is sentenced to life in prison for speaking out on the treatment of the Uighars.

The letter, deliberately aligned with the leader’s visit to the United States, made the case that the limitation of free speech in China undermines the Chinese state’s own ability to be seen as a world leader, on the same playing field as other powerful nations such as the United States, who lean toward protecting their citizen’s freedoms of expression.

Specifically, the signatories reference the growing censorship of “literature, the news media, and the internet and telecommunication technologies” that creates a culture of information-handicapped citizens, unable to access accurate information or develop their own perspectives on world and national issues.

The lack of differing views within China as a consequence of the imprisonment of journalists make it difficult for the economy and culture to be competitive on the world stage, the letter claims. In conclusion, the writers call on President  Xi to release those in captivity for simply expressing their views, and to protect the right of political speech within the People’s Republic of China.

As of this writing, those imprisoned prior to Xi’s American journey remain behind bars, making China the world leader in captive journalists. However, the open letter has grabbed the attention of many western news sites, such as the Guardian and the New York Times along with Asian sites, such as the South China Morning Post.

Link to the full letter: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/china-xi-jinping-writers-pen-america/