I recently came across a catalogue for an exhibition called “Embracing the Uncarved Wood,” which Artistsfeatures some amazing hand-carved sculptural reliefs by a group of deaf sculptors from China. I read that these artists had formed a collective called the “True Words Workshop,” where they lived and worked together under the direction of two hearing teachers, Zhou Ning and Xiao Yixia, who are graduates of the Shandong Art Institute.
I wanted to learn more so I Googled them and what I’ve found out is extremely disturbing. Two years ago, Zhou Ning was arrested and last March he was sentenced to five years in prison. Both Zhou Ning and Xiao Yixia had already been subjected to repeated harassment, having been evicted from their house and having been arrested and imprisoned several times before. Their defense lawyer, Li Subin, who specializes in human rights cases, has suffered as well: his law firm has been closed down.
Apparently these two artists are practitioners of Falun Gong, a sort of philosophical mix of qi gong, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The Chinese government has outlawed it, along with many other non-approved belief systems. Amnesty International has condemned China’s treatment of Falun Gong prisoners, as has our own government.
I hear about political prisoners all the time, but since Zhou Ning is a fellow artist, I feel particularly connected to his case. I am asking you to take a moment to write letters or emails to the following people. Compose your own or, if it makes it easier, you can use what I’ve drafted below.
And please forward this to as many artists [and concerned individuals] as you can.
Ambassador Jon Huntsman
United States Embassy
Number 55 An Jia Lou Lu
Beijing, China 100600
Charlotte Oldham-Moore, Staff Director
Congressional Executive Commission on China
243 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Vanessa Jalet, Executive Assistant to Linda Downs
College Art Association
275 Seventh Avenue, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Email: email@example.com (with a cc to Paul Jaskot, President, Board of Directors: firstname.lastname@example.org)