Noted writers to challenge Chinese Gov’t at Brooklyn Public Library on Thursday

Noted American writers and artists will protest Beijing’s efforts to silence award-winning writer Ilham Tohti and other Chinese writers and artists on the plaza of Brooklyn Public Library on Thursday, April 10 at 7 p.m.

Tohti is the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. After Tohti was honored by PEN, the Chinese government issued an angry defense of their prosecution of the peaceful Uyghur rights advocate and economist. Two days ago, Tohti’s daughter testified before the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

The protest will begin with short readings by Sergio De La Pava, Jennifer Egan, Chang-Rae Lee, Victoria Redel, Jacob Weisberg, and “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” filmmaker Alison Klayman. Works include pieces by Chinese writers including Tohti; acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei, who cannot attend a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Museum this month because his passport is arbitrarily held by the Chinese government; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison term for seven sentences written in 2008; and his wife, Liu Xia, an artist and poet who has been held under extralegal house arrest since her husband’s receipt of the prize. 

Attendees will witness an outdoor projection of a never-before-seen video message from Ai Weiwei, accompanied by a lighted message to the Chinese government presented by the New York City Light Brigade.

Tohti, a member of the Uyghur PEN Center, was arrested by authorities at his home in Beijing on January 15 and is being held incommunicado at a detention center thousands of miles away in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

His wife and two sons, ages 4 and 7, have since been monitored 24 hours a day by Chinese authorities, ostracized by their community, and have lost access to much needed family funds as the government freezes Tohti’s assets. An official arrest warrant issued February 25 indicates Tohti has been charged with “separatism,” a charge that carries a penalty of ten years to life, or even the death penalty in extreme cases.

Ai Weiwei will be one of the honorees of the 2014 Brooklyn Artists Ball at the Brooklyn Museum on April 16. Gala attendees will also get a look at “Weiwei: According to What?” before it officially opens to the public on April 18.

Thursday’s event is sponsored by PEN American Center, Brooklyn Public Library, and Friends of Ai Weiwei; and co-sponsored by Asian American Writers Workshop and Phil & Co.

The protest takes place at Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, on Thursday, April 10 at 7 p.m.

It will also be live-streamed at www.pen.org/ai. (Follow on Twitter at #WithFlowers.)