International PEN Poem Relay Site Blocked in Mainland China

    TORONTO, Aug. 6 /CNW/ - In the final countdown to the Beijing Olympics,
the International PEN Poem Relay has sent a "Poetic Petition" to the Chinese
authorities, including all the translations of Shi Tao's poem "June" produced
as part of this historic poetic journey around the world.
    Writers and poets around the world produced 125 translations of "June"
into 98 languages. The poem travelled to 65 countries during the four and half
month virtual relay, which can still be viewed at
    On August 5, 2008, three days before the opening of the Games, it was
reported that the PEN Poem Relay site has been blocked in mainland China.
    The International PEN Poem Relay centred on the poem "June" by the
imprisoned poet and journalist Shi Tao and sought to raise awareness about
freedom of expression in China in a uniquely PEN way - through poetry and
translation. Shi Tao is serving a 10-year sentence in prison on the charge of
"revealing state secrets abroad". He was convicted for an email he sent to an
overseas website using a Yahoo! email account after Yahoo! provided the
Chinese authorities with his identity.
    The poem "June" is a meditation on the tragedy of the military crackdown
on the Tiananmen Square protests in June 4, 1989, which remains a censored
topic in China. Organizers of the PEN Poem relay will send copies of all 125
translations to the Chinese authorities along with a statement calling for the
immediate and unconditional release of Shi Tao and all writers in prison in
China. (For information about Shi Tao, the text of the poem June in Mandarin
and English and the text of Poetic Petition cover letter to Hu Jintao, please
go to home page.)
    "These translations represent the solidarity writers and poets around the
world have with Shi Tao and all of the writers in prison in China," said Chip
Rolley of Sydney PEN, co-organizer of the PEN Poem Relay and translator of the
poem to English. "Each act of translation is a call for freedom of expression
in China."
    "The Relay surpassed our expectations," said Swiss German PEN's Kristin
Schnider, also one of the organizers of the relay. "Shi Tao's poem 'June' was
and is a torch in its own right."
    Organizers of the Relay expressed deep concern about China's continuing
control of writers' expression. "While this poem's journey in and out of 98
languages shows the world's concern about the fate of these writers in prison
in China, in the lead up to the Olympics, the authorities in Beijing have only
tightened their grip on expression," said Chip Rolley.
    "Shi Tao's case is a great way to examine the sincerity of Beijing's
promise of press freedom in China," noted Yu Zhang, the Coordinator of the
Writers in Prison Committee of Independent Chinese PEN Centre and one of the
organizers of the relay. "As long as Shi Tao and other writers and journalists
on PEN's case list are still behind bars, his poem 'June' will be a reminder
of the reality behind the Beijing Olympic motto 'One World, One Dream'."
    For full text of press release, international contacts and the press kit: under the link "International PEN Poem Relay Blocked.

For further information:

For further information: in Canada: Marian Botsford Fraser,, (416) 938-4204

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