BEIJING • More than 100 authors from around the world signed a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday - Human Rights Day - to urge an immediate end to the country's "worsening crackdown" on rights, a global writers group said.
Since he came to power in 2012, Mr Xi has reportedly overseen a crackdown on dissent, with lawyers, activists and academics detained or jailed.
His ruling Communist Party has a tight grip on the media, including newspapers, websites and other broadcast and print platforms. An army of censors is said to patrol social media and many Western news websites are blocked.
"China and the rest of the world can only be enriched by these opinions and voices," said the letter, organised by the London- based PEN International writers association, which advocates for free speech.
"We therefore urge the Chinese authorities to release the writers, journalists and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions," it stated.
The enforced silence of these friends and colleagues is deafening, and the disappearance of their voices has left a world worse off for this egregious injustice and loss.
A LETTER TO MR XI JINPING, by the London-based PEN International writers association
Signed by writers including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Nobel laureate JM Coetzee, the letter mentions imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year term for "subversion", and his wife Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest.
It also references, among others, scholar Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence for "separatism" over his criticism of Beijing's policies towards the mostly-Muslim Uighur minority.
Over a dozen members or honorary members of the organisation's China-focused chapter, the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, are imprisoned or persecuted, the letter states.
"The enforced silence of these friends and colleagues is deafening, and the disappearance of their voices has left a world worse off for this egregious injustice and loss," the letter says.
The letter comes as a rights group yesterday said that a man has self-immolated in protest against China's presence in Tibet while calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.
Horrific video footage online of Thursday's incident shows the man, aged in his 30s and named by The International Campaign for Tibet as Tashi Rabten, walking down a road in north-west China's Maqu region with his entire body engulfed in flames while a passer-by recites prayers.