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Salman Rushdie’s Response to Liao Yiwu’s Letter

April 27, 2011

Author Salman Rushdie responds to Liao Yiwu’s recent open letter.

Dear Liao Yiwu,

In the sense that your groundbreaking, vivid writings about China’s history and current situation have admirers around the world, not least here in the United States, you are of course most worthy of the empty chair.

In the sense that the chair symbolizes your government’s attempt to suppress your voice, you are most decidedly unworthy of such treatment, as are your colleagues Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, Ran Yunfei, and the many other writers, artists, and activists who are currently restrained from addressing audiences in your country and around the world.

Quite simply, we miss you. We had for months been looking forward to welcoming you to the 2011 PEN World Voices Festival in New York, and to your performances at two of this year’s premier events. In denying you permission to be with us, your government has not only once again impinged on your right, guaranteed under Chinese and international law, to write, speak, and travel freely; it has impinged on our right to see you and hear you in person. We feel your absence—which, I suppose, is the ultimate testimony to the power of your words.

Please know that I and all of my colleagues at PEN American Center stand with you, and that we will continue to protest all attempts to limit your freedom to write.

Respectfully yours,

Salman Rushdie

Reprinted with permission from the PEN American Center.

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