Detained Chinese publisher Geng Xiaonan, who is being held on suspicion of running an “illegal business” after she spoke out publicly in support of former Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun, has won a human rights award for her courage in “speaking up for justice.”
The authors’ group Independent Chinese PEN Center awarded Geng, who has been bullied and mistreated by fellow prisoners in a police-run detention center, its Lin Zhao Memorial Award, commemorating a Mao-era dissident who was executed after continuing to write in prison using her own blood as ink.
Geng, 46, was given the award for her long-term support for dissidents and civil society organizations under a long-running campaign by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Xi Jinping to stamp out any speech not officially sanctioned by the authorities.
“Geng Xiaonan publicly supported Xu Zhangrun,” Independent Chinese PEN chief Yi-Ran Pei told RFA. “She gave strong support to democracy advocates, and criticized the government through her writing.”
“She is the embodiment of Lin Zhao’s fearless spirit [because] she spoke out for justice without regard for her own safety,” Pei said.
Geng’s lawyer Shang Baojun said Geng had expressed her gratitude for the award on his most recent visit with her in the detention center, but that he is very concerned about how she is being treated during repeated interrogations.
“Xiaonan is not doing well,” Shang said. “There have been some intensive interrogations starting this month, about five or six, after about five or six of them at the end of last month.”
“The approach of the interrogators since the beginning of this month has changed, and now they are using personal attacks and insults,” he said. “They want Xianan to ‘cooperate’ with them and they are putting a lot of pressure on her.”
“She has also been moved to a different cell where her cellmates are bullying her,” he said.
‘Faced with a violent regime’
Independent Chinese PEN said Wuhan-based writer Fang Fang, who was targeted by a pro-CCP online hate campaign for her diary of life in Wuhan under the coronavirus lockdown, had been awarded its “Freedom to Write” Award.
The awards are being made in commemoration of late dissident intellectual and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in prison of late-stage liver cancer in July 2017, Pei told RFA.
“[Liu] was a founding member and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center; whose membership includes writers within China and among the diaspora who continue to campaign tirelessly for the freedoms that Liu Xiaobo died for,” International Pen said in a statement on its website.
“Over a dozen of its members are currently detained in China, with many more continuing to face harassment and other forms of persecution inside China and beyond its borders,” it said.
Pei added: “We are peaceful, rational, and non-violent, and we are faced with a violent regime. This is not an equal struggle.”
Geng was detained on Sept. 9 alongside her husband Qin Zhen on suspicion of “illegal business operations,” and formally arrested a month later.
Authorities in Beijing detained Xu Zhangrun on the morning of July 6 after he called online for political reforms, on allegations of “seeking out prostitutes.”
He was released a week later, but later told the media that he had been fired from his teaching post and subjected to public sanctions for “moral corruption” by Tsinghua University’s law school.
Charges of “seeking out prostitutes” have been used before by the Chinese authorities to target peaceful critics and activists, or anyone who runs afoul of local officials and powerful vested interests. Xu has lodged a legal challenge, and denies the charges.
Reported by Yitong Wu and Chingman for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org
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