WRITER IN RESIDENCE

Norwich City of Refuge provides Writer in Residence placements for exiled writers. Norwich's first writer, Jiao Guobiao arrived in February, and is engaged in regional, national and international work to promote an understanding of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers, as well as using his time in Norwich to write in peace and safety.

JIAO'S STORY

Three years ago, Jiao was an associate Professor of Journalism at Peking University. He wrote an article entitled ‘Denouncing the Central Propaganda Department (of CPC, Communist Party of China)’ which was translated into English and widely circulated on the internet in April 2004. Jiao says:

‘At first, I just sent this article to a few friends by email. But a lawyer friend put it onto a website without informing me, and a few days later the vice president of Peking University summoned me to his office. I did not know the article had spread so widely. Many overseas media, such as the Asian Weekly of Hong Kong, Voice of America, The New York Times, even a newspaper in Helsinki, Finland, published the whole article or it's summary, or reported the event of its publication. The vice president asked me not to write critical articles again and not to accept foreign media interview requests as well. I was forced to agree.'

Following this meeting Jiao experienced close monitoring, a period of house arrest and imposed restrictions on further publications and talks. Jiao allowed a collection to articles to be published in Japan in July 2004, with a preface called ‘My Post-Denouncing Times’, referring to what was happening to him:

’I had already been isolated from my students and friends. When this preface was also published in The Asian Weekly, Peking University strongly disapproved and my classes were suspended. At the end of 2004, the University forced me to make a choice, leave the School of Journalism for the Classical Literature Centre at Peking University, or leave Peking University. If not, the University would expel me. I was in great pain and distress. Just at this time, the NED [National Endowment for Democracy] invited me to Washington DC as a visiting scholar for six months.'

Jiao did not resign, but left China on 16th March, 2005. Two days after he left, the University sent a letter to his home, headed with the words ‘A Voluntarily Position-leaving Notice’.

‘After finishing my stay in the US, I returned to Beijing in October, 2005. From this time on, I became jobless. There are hundreds of universities in China, but no one dared employ me. From November, 2005, due to joining in a secret investigation into torture and the Falungong movement, I was controlled much more tightly. At times, the police and their cars waited outside the gates of my apartment building all day long. The longest time was for seven days.  One year later, in November, 2006, I was invited to Germany. I stayed in Germany for 15 months. Then, in February, I came to Norwich to work as Writer in Residence on the Norwich City of Refuge Programme’.

As we all know, China's human rights record has been under the spotlight recently due to their relations with Tibet and the run-up to the Olympics. Professor Jiao is keen to raise awareness of those who remain under threat of oppression, violence and persecution in his native country. As such, he has been attending events and talks around Britain and in Europe, talking over his experience of exile and and highlighting the human rights violations that continue to affect many thousands of people living in China today. 

JIAO'S WORK

During his time in Norwich, Jiao has been working on two books: On the Cultural Transmission and Looking at China Today, and several academic articles complementing the variety of articles that have already been published in English and translated into over 22 languages, including: ‘Ideological Control’ and ‘Declaration of Ministry of Central Propaganda’.

EVENTS

On Wednesday 7th May Jiao is taking part in the preview screening of the documentary Independent Mind about freedom of speech at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex.

On Thursday 8th May Jiao will be taking part in a journalist's workshop: Free Speech and Human Rights in China at the Human Rights Action Centre in London.

From Tuesday 20th May Jiao will be attending the third ICORN General Assembly 2008, in Stavanger Norway.

Jiao has also participated in Cambridge Wordfest, the Writers in Prison International PEN conference in Glasgow and the Arts and Hospitality Events in Stavangar, Norway as part of Stavanger European Capital of Culture.

For more information on writers in other Cities of Refuge, click here.