Chinese writer barred from going to Germany

BEIJING: A writer and critic of China’s government was blocked from boarding a flight as he tried to travel to Germany today for a literary festival, prompting criticism from German authorities.

Liao Yiwu was prevented from boarding the flight to Beijing from his home town Chengdu en route for the lit.COLOGNE festival, his friend Chen Wei said.

Liao was surrounded by men “who looked like police at Shuangliu

airport in Chengdu” as he was boarding the flight, Chen told AFP.

“He was later sent back to his house by these people and was asked not to travel around these days.” Liao is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter known for his 1989 poem “Massacre”, which condemned the Tiananmen killings in Beijing that year. He spent four years in prison for writing the poem, according to a biography on publisher Random House’s website. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle issued a statement saying Germany had repeatedly tried to persuade Chinese authorities to let Liao make the journey and voicing hopes that he would be able to visit Germany soon.

Last month Liao appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel for help, saying Chinese authorities were preventing him from travelling to speak at the festival. The letter was posted on the Human Rights in China group’s website.

Organisers of the festival announced that as a show of solidarity Liao’s work would be read out at the event “regardless of whether the author can come or not”. Liao made headlines last year when Chinese authorities blocked him from attending the Frankfurt Book Fair. He could not be reached for comment today.