Activities of the Writers in Prison and human rights committee of the Japan P.E.N. Club
1981 October The first "Day of Writers in Prison" forum (thereafter held once every year)
1993 A fact-finding mission was sent to South Korea. Members met with imprisoned novelist Hwang Sok-yong. A letter calling for his release was sent to the South Korean government. A symposium was held on Writers in Prison Day (Thursday, October 7).
1994 A fact-finding mission was sent to China (Beijing and Hong Kong). Based on information gathered by the mission, a panel discussion titled "Writers in China Today" was held on Writers in Prison Day (Thursday, October 18).
1995 A fact-finding mission was sent to Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar). On Writers in Prison Day (Thursday, October 5), a report was presented on writers in those two countries, and a panel discussion titled "Fifty years after the war: What kind of Japan do we live in today?" was held. In addition, a taped message was presented from Aung San Suu Kyi, who mission members met in Burma, and messages were also presented from Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer and others.
1996 Under the title of "Thoughts on Writers in Prison Day: The Prison Created by the Mass Media," a panel discussion was held on the topic of whether freedom of expression is truly being protected in an environment of overheated media scrutiny.
1997 After visiting a Vietnamese writers association and other organizations as a Vietnam goodwill exchange group, members investigated the current status of writers in prison in Vietnam. On Writers in Prison Day (October 2), a report was presented on the current situation of Vietnamese writers.
1998 On Writers in Prison Day, a symposium was held on the topic "The Democratization of China (Wei Jingsheng and the Tiananmen Square Incident)."
1999 The Writers in Prison Day (October 7) theme was "Ethnic Nationalism and Today's World." A symposium was held focusing on the issue of peace and the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the end of November, members visited politically unstable East Timor (area now called Aceh) to investigate the situation for journalists and other writers there.
With the deterioration of conditions in the Yugoslavia region, a letter was sent to President Slobodan Milosevic protesting the repression of journalists and other writers in Kosovo and a letter was sent to the secretary general of NATO calling for a halt to aerial bombing.
2000 The Writers in Prison Day (October 5) theme was "Literature and Prison." A panel discussion focused on the issue of human rights in Japanese prisons and also considered the situation in Latin America.
An interview was held with a formerly imprisoned Indonesian writer who was visiting Japan, and opinions were exchanged with a formerly imprisoned writer from Burma (Myanmar).
Based on the principle of freedom of expression, letters were sent to the Chinese government calling for release of three journalists detained or arrested there, and to the government of Burma (Myanmar) calling for immediate and unconditional release of two journalists detained or arrested there.
2001 Responding to the Chinese government's detainment of Chinese writer Tohti Tunyaz, an ethnic Uyghur, on Writers in Prison Day (October 4), a movement was initiated to collect petition signatures from PEN members and others. The end result of this action was that a petition calling for his release was sent to the Chinese government on March 27, 2002 with an attached list of more than 300 supporter signatures by PEN members and others. In addition, Tohti was made an honorary member of the Japan P.E.N. Club, and International PEN headquarters was informed. Released following the end of his 11-year sentence, Tohti returned home on February 10, 2009.
Carried over from the previous year, the theme of the 21st Writers in Prison Day was "Literature and Prison II." The activities included two debates and readings of the poems of poets involved in protests in China.
2002 This year's Writers in Prison Day event was held outside Tokyo for the first time. It took place on October 6 (Sunday) under the title: Japan P.E.N. Club Forum "The Power of Literature, Adventures of Expression."
2003 For Writers in Prison Day (October 7), exiled Chinese writer Zheng Yi was invited to attend from America, and he took part in an event titled "Writing for Freedom - A Dialogue Between Exiled Chinese Writer Zheng Yi and Kenzaburo Oe." Their discussion of the freedom to write was greeted with wide interest.
The 24th Writers in Prison Day event was held on the Kagoshima Prefecture island of Amami Oshima. Under the theme "Prison of Language - Beginning Again with Dialect," participants discussed the brilliant possibilities of dialect.
2005 At the time, there was a succession of incidents involving the detaining of Internet journalists, with one case being the arrest of Shi Tao, a reporter for the Contemporary Business News, a daily newspaper in China's Hunan Province. He was charged by the Chinese government with leaking state secrets after his personal information was disclosed by Yahoo Hong Kong. Under the name of the Japan P.E.N. Writers in Prison and Human Rights Committee chairperson, a series of appeals were made for their immediate and unconditional releases.
The 25th Writers in Prison Day featured the theme "Do you know Vietnam? - Literature and Human Rights in Southeast Asia." Under this theme, panel discussions were held about current conditions in Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia. In addition, responding to the ongoing rash of incidents in China, Vietnam, and elsewhere involving the detainment or arrest (on charges such as "leaking state secrets") of journalists and other writers publishing writings and commentaries on the Internet, the Japan P.E.N. Writers in Prison and Human Rights Committee issued an appeal each time such a case was reported.
2006 Wei Jingsheng is a formerly imprisoned Chinese writer, who was arrested following the Tiananmen Square Incident of 1976 and released in 1997. He now lives in America. During a trip to Japan in 2006, he visited the Japan P.E.N. Club, exchanging views on topics such as his activities in America and the activities of the Writers in Prison and Human Rights Committee.
2007 With anti-government demonstrations expanding in Burma (Myanmar), a Japanese journalist was killed during the military government's severe suppression of a demonstration. On October 9, 2007, the Japan P.E.N. Club issued a statement that protested the latest moves by Myanmar government to suppress free speech, the killing of the Japanese journalist, the detention of Buddhist monks as well as other residents, and that also called for the restoration of freedom of speech.
2008 With the Beijing Olympic Games approaching, tension was high in China, and there was a crackdown on protest activities in Tibet. On March 26, 2008, the Writers in Prison and Human Rights Committee issued a statement expressing concern over the situation in Tibet and calling for freedom of speech and respect for human rights. Through the Poem Relay planned in conjunction with the Beijing Olympics, the Japan P.E.N. Club participated in a protest against China's repression of free speech and human rights.
In addition, in response to the Chinese government's detention of Dr. Liu Xiaobo, an ex-chairman of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, a statement was issued on December 22, 2008, calling for the immediate release of Dr. Liu Xiaobo by the Chinese government. The Writers in Prison and Human Rights Committee also called for electronic signatures from members supporting a statement to the Chinese government "protesting the long-term detention of Dr. Liu Xiaobo, a former chairman of the Independent Chinese PEN Center and well-known dissident writer." Thirty Japan P.E.N. Club members signed the statement.
2009 A statement was issued on August 11 to protest the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and to call for an immediate and unconditional end to her house arrest. This statement strongly protested the guilty verdict and three-year prison sentence handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi by a special court in Yangon, Myanmar.
2010 A statement was issued on January5 to call for the government of the People's Republic of China to reconsider the unjust Sentencing of Dr. Liu Xiaobo and grant his immediate release.
The special exhibition and the public event was organized during the International Congress Tokyo 2010 to commemorate 50 years of International PEN WiPC.
The special Empty Chair made for the Japan PEN Club was exhibited during the Congress and the exhibition.