The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature kicked off Monday, but celebrated dissident Chinese writer Liao Yiwu wasn't in attendance.
Liao was scheduled to read his work at the opening event, but has been denied an exit visa by Chinese officials, according to festival organizers.
Liao's translator, Wen Huang, said the Chinese government has cracked down on dissident writers because they are worried ideas from the democracy movement in the Middle East would spread within China.
Liao is the author of “The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up,” is known for writing about characters living on the fringes of Chinese society.
Salman Rushdie, who chairs the PEN festival, denounced the travel ban, calling it "a blatant violation of China's obligations to guarantee freedom of movement and expression."
Calls to the Chinese consulate for comment were not returned.