Translator, editor and activist
Tienchi Martin-Liao (1947) is a Chinese author and translator who has dedicated her life to the defence of human rights and freedom of expression in China. Born in Nanjing, she was educated in Taiwan and in Germany, where she has lived since the 1970’s. A graduate in English Literature from National Taiwan University, she began her working life in the think tank of the Institute for Asian Affairs (Institut für Asienkunde) in Hamburg, taught Chinese language and literature at the Ruhr-University of Bochum and from 1991 – 2001 was director of the Richard-Willhelm Centre for Translation Research (Richard-Wilhelm-Übersetzungszentrums). In the year 2000 she left Germany and the academic world to work in the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF), an NGO based in Washington DC which documents the state, location and spread of forced labour camps in China (“laogai” in Chinese). She is currently President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre – ICPC.
Martin-Liao has written and translated books on Chinese culture and society and often appears in North American and international media as an expert on human rights in China. Her most notable works are: Chinese-German vocabulary: Politics and economy of the PRC (Chinesisch-deutscher Wortschatz: Politik und Wirtschaft der VR China); The Phoenix Tree: Modern Taiwanese Poetry (Phönixbaum. Moderne taiwanesische Lyrik). Martin-Liao also edited the anthology ‘No Enemies, No Hatred’ by the Nobel Peace Prize winning author Liu Xiaobo, who died in custody on 13th July of last year. As President of the ICPC, Martin-Liao maintained a personal relationship with Liu Xiaobo and his partner, Liu Xia, also a poet, who is currently under house arrest, and has campaigned for their causes. As a result of her activism she has been prohibited from entering China since the 1990’s.