(New York, NY) — Lawyers for imprisoned Chinese activist and writer Xu Zhiyong—the 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree—indicated this week that he’s now been indicted for “subversion,” alongside fellow human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi. That move brings both unjustly imprisoned men closer to trial.

In response to these events, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel offered the following comment:

“Xu and Ding are being prosecuted for their peaceful advocacy for human rights in China, full stop. The right to peacefully express oneself is enshrined in international and Chinese law. We call upon Linyi City prosecutors to immediately vacate these specious charges. Both Xu and Ding have reported that they were tortured in custody. China should not stoop to the tactics of the world’s most repressive and stigmatized regimes, resorting to shameful lengths in order to muzzle and punish critics. Both men deserve to be returned immediately to their families and their work. We call upon the international community to press these cases with PRC officials both publicly and privately.”

Xu was detained February 15, 2020 after writing multiple open letters and online commentaries criticizing the Chinese government, including its response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Xu faces a potential punishment of life in prison if convicted.

Read more about him at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Zhiyong