Book Highlights Exiles' Woes

Exiled Chinese writers launch a poetry collection and call on Beijing to allow their return.
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A policeman stands guard at a border crossing between Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Aug. 15, 2007.
A policeman stands guard at a border crossing between Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Aug. 15, 2007.

LOS ANGELES—Top Chinese dissident writers in exile have called on Beijing to allow them to return, launching a poetry collection of 42 poets from around the world.

"All of the poets represented in this anthology provide an insight into the resiliency of the human spirit and the courage required to maintain artistic integrity in the face of censorship and violent repression," wrote California State University Long Beach Asian literature professor Teri Shaffer Yamada in the introduction to the anthology, titled Poems from Exile.

"They represent the power of creative expression to overcome the most crushing obstacles and the determination to make our world a better place."

Speaking to reporters at the Oct. 28 launch, Chinese poet Jiang Pinchao called on the Chinese government to treat Chinese exiles with tolerance.

"I wish they would ... enter into an equal and rational dialogue with them, so as to exchange points of view," Jiang said.

"This would help China's political system to improve. I also hope that the Chinese government will soon allow Chinese exiles to return home."

Former literary committee chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council Woo Chih-wai agreed.

"I also sincerely hope that the next time these authors meet, that they will do so on Chinese soil," he said.

Many of the poets in the anthology, some of whom recited their verse at the book's launch in San Francisco, recalled the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.

"[At] a time when the free world is celebrating the collapse of communism, some of the most populous countries in the world still live under an authoritarian regime," said poet Xue Tianhan.

"We still have some work to do in our struggle to win freedom."

Refused re-entry

Chinese border authorities have refused re-entry to several Chinese rights activists and dissidents in recent weeks, though all hold valid Chinese passports.

One of them, Shanghai-based dissident writer Li Jianhong said she was twice barred in October from returning to China via neighboring Hong Kong.

Li, also known by her pen name Xiao Qiao, is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, has written extensively on freedom of expression, and was an early signatory to the Charter 08 manifesto, in which Chinese intellectuals called for greater freedom.

Translator Teresa Zimmerman-Liu said at the book launch: "On paper, China has a lot of human rights protection, but in reality, there isn't much freedom for those who don't follow the official government line."

"They are likely to be oppressed and controlled," she said.

Taiwan student Yang Fanyi said that most people can sympathize with the plight of exiles.

"Everyone wants to be able to live in their own country," she said.

"These people who have been refused the right to re-enter China still have a long way to go."

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xiao Rong. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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