Visual Artists Guild
P. O. Box 861132, Los Angeles, Ca 90086-1132
November 12, 2009

Mr.  Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500
Fax 202-456-2461

Dear President Obama,

As you embark on your trip to China and will be meeting with President Hu Jintao of the Peoples Republic of China, I ask that you bring to his attention the following prisoners of conscience. 

When you heard the news of your being awarded the Nobel Peace prize, you have indicated it is "a call to action."  Your action for the following prisoners of conscience would be most appropriate.  

Huang Qi, Sun Lin, Qi Chonghuai, Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin, Chen Guangcheng, Shi Tao, Liu Xiaobo, Bishop Jia Zhiquo, Father Wen Daoxiu have done nothing to deserve their prison sentence or detention as the constitution of the PRC guarantees their citizens the right to freedom of speech and religion.  Their respective information is as follows:

Huang Qi 

Huang has been in custody since June 10, 2008.  He was tried in August, 2009 for "illegally possessing state secret" without a verdict.  At the time of his arrest, he was assisting parents who lost their children during the May, 2008 earthquake when  what parents called "tofu" school collapsed on them.  The parents accuse the government of corruption in the badly constructed schools. 

Huang Qi founded the website 64Tianwang in June, 1998 which posts news about missing people and human rights.  Huang was initially arrested in June 2000 and sentenced in May 2003 to five years for “subversion”.  He was released on June 4, 2005 after completing his first sentence. 

Sun Lin

Sun, a journalist better known by the pen-name Jie Mu, has been sentenced to four-year prison sentence in the eastern city of Nanjing on June 27, 2008.

Sun and his wife He Fang were arrested on May 30, 2007. Before the arrest Sun was very active in reporting civil rights incidents in Nanjing and other regions in China. He Fang helped in video editing and interviewing.

The husband and wife team were told to stop writing articles for Boxun, a Chinese-language news website based abroad, ( but refused.  They were sentenced on June 23, 2008.  Sun received a four year sentence and He Fang was given a suspended prison sentence.

Qi Chonghuai 

Journalist Qi was sentenced to four years in prison on May 13, 2008 the day after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province.  He was arrested on June 25, 2007 after refusing to stop reporting corruption in Tengzhou, Shandong province.

Qi was charged with fraud and extorting money.  Qi worked for Fazhi Zaoboa (Legal Rule Morning Post), a newspaper owned by the Justice Ministry.  He had been a journalist for various media outlets for 13 years.

Hu Jia

Hu and his wife Zeng Jinyan are AIDS activist and environmentalists.  They have been activists since the 1990s.  Hu is involved in AIDS prevention and helping AIDS/HIV sufferers. They have used the Internet to alert the international community about the damaging effects on the Chinese people in the preparations for the Olympic Games.  As the Olympic Games approach, they have become the symbol of the peaceful battle to expand human rights in their country.

He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on April 3, 2008 in Beijing for “inciting subversion” for writing three articles for a foreign-based website and giving interviews to foreign journalists.

Zeng Jinyan continues to be under surveillance.

Yang Chunlin

Yang Chunlin is a peasant land rights activist and the leader of the “We want human rights not Olympic Games” campaign.  His petition demanding redress for farmland taken from the farmers by officials for development was signed by thousands of signatures.  He posted the letter on the internet with the title, “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”

Yang Chunlin’s family has been threatened and he has been sentenced to five years in prison followed by two years without civic rights by an intermediate court in the northeastern city of Jiamusi on March 24, 2008. 

He has been charged with inciting subversion of state authority.  According to Yang Chunlin’s defense attorney, much of the nearly five-hour trial session was spent arguing about whether Yang's Olympic protest slogan counted as subversion. His attorney argued that the land the farmers lost had been seized illegally, taken without the permission of the Cabinet as required by regulations.

Chen Guangcheng 

Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer aged 36, was put under house arrest in September 2005 after defending the inhabitants of Linyi against a town council that was running a program of late term enforced abortions and sterilization in violation of China’s one-child policy. 

He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison in August 2006 for “destroying public property” and “associating with criminals to disturb road traffic.” The sentence was confirmed in January 2007 despite irregularities during his trial.    He had beaten and tortured by fellow prisoners.  On October 14, 2009, a day before the International Day of the Blind, Chen's wife smuggled a letter out asking for world attention n his case. 

Shi Tao

Shi worked for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News).  He was convicted in April, 2005 on a charge of “illegally divulging state secrets abroad” on the basis of information provided by Yahoo! to the Chinese police.   He was accused of sending to foreign-based websites the text of a message which authorities had sent to his newspaper warning journalists of action they should or should not take on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.  Shi admitted sending the message but disputed authorities’ claim that it was top secret.  Shi was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Liu Xiaobo

Liu was detained on December 8, 2008 and formally charged with "subversion" on June 23, 2009.  Liu is one of the signers of Charter 08, a document which calls for democratic reform in China. 

The document was originally signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists in China including lawyers, journalists, dissidents, artists and rural leaders, from every corner of the country.  Subsequently more than five thousand people signed the document.

Charter 08 was based on Charter 77, a human rights manifesto, which challenged Soviet rule and was originally signed by about two hundred writers and intellectuals in Czechoslovakia in 1977. One of the signers of Charter 77 was playwright
Vaclav Havel who later became the first President of democratic Czechoslovakia after the 1989 "velvet revolution".

Bishop Jia Zhiquo

Bishop Jia Zhiquo, underground Catholic bishop who refused to join the government approved church has been taken away by security officers on March 30, 2009 and has not been seen since.  Bishop Jia had been arrested numerous times in the past.

Father Wen Daoxiu

Underground priest, Father Wen Daoxiu was arrested on August 15, 2007 and has not been heard from since.

Your action in bringing light to the above human beings will be truly appreciated.

Ann Lau
Chair, Visual Artists Guild