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Australian writer quits China tour over dissident Liu Xiaobo’s jailing

Posted by Author on January 30, 2010

Radio Australia, Jan 29, 2010-

Award-winning Australian author Frank Moorhouse is pulling out of a Government backed writer’s tour to China. He says it would be against his conscience to take part while the high profile dissident writer Liu Xiaobo is in jail. Liu was sentenced to 11 years jail last month for his part in writing a petition calling for political reforms in China.

Presenter: Ashley Hall
Speakers: Frank Moorhouse, Australian Author; Clothilde Le Coz, Reporters Without Borders

ASHLEY HALL: When Frank Moorhouse received an invitation to join a Government backed good-will tour to China he quickly said yes.

FRANK MOORHOUSE:
It seemed a very attractive idea. Seven years ago I was at the first Hong Kong festival and it seemed to be a good idea.

ASHLEY HALL: The Australian Writers’ Week tour was designed to take a number of Australian authors to Beijing and Chengdu and give them the chance to read their work, speak in public and visit universities. And they’d participate in the international writers’ festivals in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

But Frank Moorhouse says his enthusiasm waned when he learned that the Chinese authorities had sentenced the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo to 11 years’ jail for subverting state power.

FRANK MOORHOUSE: This alerted me to the fact that things weren’t improving. And I’d had the impression that freedom of expression was gradually improving in China. But this brought home to me in a very glaring way that things were very grim there.

ASHLEY HALL: He says he had to take a stand.

FRANK MOORHOUSE: It seemed to me very easy to be a great advocate of freedom of expression in Australia. But at the time there were good reasons for writing an essay about it. That was because of terrorism and the new legislation that was coming through at that time.

But it seemed to me very difficult for me now to go to China in the face of the jailing of Liu.

ASHLEY HALL: At first Frank Moorhouse considered going ahead with the tour and pointedly displaying an empty chair wherever he spoke to signify the absence of Liu Xiaobo.

It’s a tactic used often by the international network of writers devoted to freedom of expression, known as PEN.

FRANK MOORHOUSE: But I was advised that this was a very risky thing to do. It would endanger the organisers of the festivals and other people, Chinese people involved in organising this tour.

It would also probably put the other writers on the tour and myself at risk of some legal action.

I was told it would be very unwise to even mention the jailing of writers in China.

ASHLEY HALL: So he’s decided he won’t go at all. …… (more details from Radio Australia)

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