Chengdu writer Liao Yiwu has been barred from leaving China and will not be able attend the New York Literary Festival A friend of Liao's has translated his response to Salman Rushdie and the New York International Literary Festival.
Letter of Thanks and Regrets to the New York International Literary Festival and to Mr. Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie because of his "The Satanic Letters" was once targeted for assassination by Khomeini with a price of USD 5 million on his head. In the 1980s, I was still a young man. The first time I heard about Rushdie, I was very moved.
I feel deeply honored to receive this second invitation from such a brave writer even though I am unable to attend the Literary Festival in faraway New York City. Yes, deeply honored although the state has caged me within my own country and my friends Ran Yunfei, Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei are now suffering. Although I cannot meet the writers of the New York literary festival who are standing up for me, I will remember them forever.
In a certain conference hall in Norway in 2010, there was an empty chair for my old friend Mr. Liu Xiaobo. I hope that my writings, and my bearing witness to China's history and its current situation, will be worthy of the empty chair that you will leave for me at the opening ceremony of the International Literary Festival.
Chinese writer Liao Yiwu
Letter from Salman Rushdie to Liao YiwuDear Liao Yiwu,In the sense that your groundbreaking, vivid writings about China’s history and current situation have admirers around the world, not least here in the United States, you are of course most worthy of the empty chair.In the sense that the chair symbolizes your government’s attempt to suppress your voice, you are most decidedly unworthy of such treatment, as are your colleagues Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, Ran Yunfei, and the many other writers, artists, and activists who currently restrained from addressing audiences in your country and around the world.Quite simply, we miss you. We had for months been looking forward to welcoming you to the 2011 PEN World Voices Festival in New York, and to your performances at two of this year’s premiere events. In denying you permission to be with us, your government has not only once again impinged on your right, guaranteed under Chinese and international law, to write, speak, and travel freely; it has impinged on our right to see you and hear you in person. We feel your absence—which, I suppose, is the ultimate testimony to the power of your words.Please know that I and all of my colleagues at PEN American Center stand with you, and that we will continue to protest all attempts to limit your freedom to write.Respectfully yours,Salman Rushdie