Chinese Writer Denied Permission To Leave China

Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, who has been an outspoken critic of his government, has been barred from attending the Sydney Writer's Festival in Australia. Organizers say the Chinese government cited security reasons for its decision. The writer has been barred from leaving China a number of times.

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One of the most famous authors in China is apparently staying there. The Chinese government has barred the author from leaving the country to attend a writers' festival in Australia. The government says he can't go for security reasons.

As NPR'S Louisa Lim reports from Beijing, this comes amid China's harshest crackdown in years.

Mr. LIAO YIWU (Writer): (Singing in foreign language)

LOUISA LIM: This is the sound China's preventing the outside world from hearing. It's writer Liao Yiwu performing a poem invoking the deaths in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Back then, he spent four years in prison for a poem titled "Massacre." But he says he's not an activist.

Mr. YIWU: (Through Translator) I don't take part in politics. I'm a recorder of China's history and its current situation. I'm writing about those at the bottom of Chinese society, the ordinary people.

LIM: He writes about beggars, grave robbers and lepers - the powerless. It's ironic, perhaps, that the theme of the festival he's forbidden from attending is power. Here's artistic director Chip Rolley.

Mr. CHIP ROLLEY (Artistic Director, Sydney Writers' Festival) And lo and behold here the Chinese government is actually confirming our view that what a writer writes is extremely powerful. It's quite an incredible fact, if you think about it.

LIM: Liao Yiwu hasn't been allowed to publish a single word inside China for a decade. He's also been warned not to publish overseas. Despite all this, he's still undeterred.

Mr. YIWU: (Through Translator) I think it's already a world record. I've applied to leave China 17 times, and was only successful once. I'm still angry. I'm not a numb person. I'll still keep trying.

LIM: Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

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