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ALERT! “Freedom for Chinese literature!”

Thursday 17 January - 7pm at Palais de Tokyo, encounter with Liao Yiwu.

With Robert Badinter, former Garde des Sceaux, former President du Conseil constitutionnel. The event will be moderated by Pierre Haski, President of Rue89.

The Alertes are invitations issued to artists and exhibition curators to take over a space at the Palais de Tokyo and react to breaking news stories, whether they are political, economic or emotional. After “The Pussy Riot case”, the first Alerte presented at the Palais de Tokyo in June 2012, “Freedom

for Chinese literature!” takes as its starting point the eponymous column signed by the dissident poet Liao Yiwu, published in Le Monde on December 11, in support of his friend Li Bifeng, sentenced to 12 years in prison. The nocturnal visit made on December 28, 2012, by a group of Chinese dissidents to the wife of the Nobel prizewinner, Liu Xiaobo, herself under house arrest, demonstrated the growing commitment of Chinese intellectuals, and propelled the debate on censorship into the foreground.

Inspired by Marie Holzman, sinologist, and Jean-François Bouthors, publisher and writer.

Project manager, Vittoria Matarrese.


Liao Yiwu, Li Bifeng, Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei: all fighting for freedom!

In the night of June 3 to 4 , 1989, a few hours before the army opened fire on the students calling for democratic reforms on Tiananmen Square, the writer Liao Yiwu composed Massacre, in a sort of premonitory poetic trance. For distributing this elegy, and subsequently collaborating with a few friends in making and acting in Requiem, a film paying tribute to the victims of repression, he was arrested on March 16, 1990, and sentenced to prison, only being released in January 1994. In prison he started to write his “memoirs”[1]. The Chinese authorities threatening him with a new term of imprisonment if it was published abroad. That is why Liao Yiwu made up his mind to escape from his country secretly in 2011. Since arriving in Berlin, Liao Yiwu has been unceasingly engaged in championing human rights in China. Last December he launched an appeal in support of the writer

Li Bifeng, published worldwide under the title “Freedom for Chinese literature”.

On November 19 last year Li Bifeng was given a twelveyear prison sentence. Liao Yiwu had met him in prison No. 3 in Sichuan at the end of 1992. Officially found guilty of “fraud”, Li Bifeng is in fact suspected of having helped Liao Yiwu to leave China. His consistent commitment to supporting freedom and democracy is also held against him. Furthermore Li Bifeng spent seven years behind bars between 1997 and 2004 for informing the foreign media and a Chinese organization championing human rights about a social movement in the city of Mianyang. His fate can be compared of that meted out to the writer Liu Xiaobo, a long-time friend of Liao Yiwu, in prison since December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in jail for “incitement to subverting the power of the State”, for being, like Liao Yiwu, one of the 300 or so Chinese intellectuals who signed Charter 08 – a manifesto calling

for the implementation of democratic reforms in China.

Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Quite obviously the Chinese authorities are more determined than ever to silence dissident voices, and in particular those of people working in the creative sector, as demonstrated by the fate of the artist and architect Ai Weiwei, likewise a signatory to Charter 08. He is today awaiting a trial for “tax evasion”, after first being beaten up by the Chinese police in 2009[2], then held prisoner for 81 days in 2011 in a secret place where he was subjected to great physical and psychological pressure. That has not prevented Ai Weiwei from expressing his support for Liao Yiwu’s appeal on behalf of Li Bifeng.

Marie Holzman and Jean-François Bouthors

Co-directors of the «Les moutons noirs» collection published by François Bourin Editeur.


[1] This text, published in French under the title Dans l’empire des ténèbres, is being published this January by François Bourin Éditeur, in the “Les Moutons Noirs” collection.

[2] This attack was a “response” to the work he had done in memory of the victims of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.