Carrying the torch for freedom of expression in China: 2008 International PEN Poem Relay

The most powerful ideas are often very simple. I wanted to alert you to one of them: the International PEN Poem Relay currently underway, in parallel with the Olympic torch relay, to protest the lack of freedom of expression in China.

According to the Relay website, there are almost 40 writers currently imprisoned in China. In Australia there are none.

International PEN is a worldwide association of writers with 145 centres in 104 countries. It promotes friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers, fights for freedom of expression, and represents the world conscience of literature.

The International PEN Poem Relay was the brainchild of Chip Rolley, a member and former Vice-President of Sydney PEN (International PEN Centre), who translated into English the poem ‘June’ by imprisoned Chinese poet and journalist Shi Tao. The poem, which has now been translated into more than 60 languages, is relaying around the world until it reaches Beijing to coincide with the Olympics in August.

As a member of the Management Committee of Sydney PEN I invite you to follow the progress of the poem around the world on the interactive map, join the PEN Poem Relay Group on Facebook, or listen to one of the many translations of the poem available on the website. And if you believe in the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to read and to write, consider joining your local PEN chapter. Here’s the link to mine.

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