Activists Send Christmas Cards to Dissidents to Mark Nobel Winner's Jailing

hong-kong-alliance-christmas-dec24-2014.jpg Members of the Hong Kong Alliance hold the group's annual Christmas card campaign in Hong Kong, Dec. 23, 2014.

Rights activists are calling for a Christmas card campaign for jailed Chinese dissidents to mark the fifth anniversary of the jailing of Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Liu, 58, a literary critic and former professor, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law.

He has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of supporters, and is serving an 11-year prison sentence for "incitement to subvert state power," handed down on Christmas Day, 2009.

Hong Kong's Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China called on people around the world to send Christmas cards to Liu and other political prisoners.

"This year we will focus in particular on Liu Xiaobo, [New Citizens' Movement founder] Xu Zhiyong, as well as all those rights activists in mainland China who were detained for their support of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement," the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

Rights groups estimate that more than 100 people were detained for publicly supporting the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, which ended earlier this week.

"We hope that the Chinese government will adhere to clause 40 of the constitution which says that people have the right to free communication, and allow them to receive Christmas cards and postcards from Hong Kong citizens," the Alliance said.

"[We also hope that] they will improve their treatment."

‘Bad year’

Allliance deputy chairman Richard Choi said 2014 had been a bad year for Chinese rights activists.

"The damage done to human rights during the past year has been very serious," Choi said.

"In particular, we saw the trials of Xu Zhiyong and others in his movement at the beginning of the year," he said.

"There were also a number of people detained around the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, military crackdown," he said, citing in particular prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and outspoken veteran journalist Gao Yu.

“There were also all of those rights activists and workers who worked on behalf of the Umbrella Movement in mainland China," Choi said. "They have all been the targets of varying degrees of persecution."

But William Nee, China researcher for the London-based rights group Amnesty International, said Liu himself had recently asked that rights campaigns focus on less well-known prisoners of conscience.

Citing a Facebook post earlier this month by Germany-based activist Liao Yiwu, Nee said Liu had called on the international community to pay more attention to "unnamed victims" of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on dissent.

But Amnesty International is asking its supporters to write to the Chinese government in the New Year calling for Liu's release.

"We call on the authorities to immediately release Liu Xiaobo, who is a prisoner of conscience," Nee said.

He said Liu's wife Liu Xia has lived under virtual house arrest at the couple's Beijing home since her husband's award was announced. "We think she should be allowed to live a normal life," Nee said.

"Our members around the world have launched a movement which will call for Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia to be reunited in the New Year," he said.

Other dissidents

But he said the group is also concerned about other jailed Chinese dissidents and rights activists over the Christmas period.

"[We] want to bring world attention to bear on all political prisoners in Chinese jails, especially over Christmas," Nee said.

He said further sentences look likely because authorities often jail dissidents at this time of year.

"We often see decisions in the more sensitive cases at Christmas," Nee said, adding that Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Guo Feixiong and Gao Yu could both be sentenced over the festive period.

Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu went on trial in Beijing in November for leaking state secrets, charges she has now denied despite a televised "confession" her lawyers said was obtained under duress.

Gao's arrest came as authorities rounded up dozens of rights activists and dissidents for questioning ahead of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Gao played an active part during the Tiananmen Square protests and was detained  on June 3, 1989, as China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) moved tanks and troops into the heart of Beijing, putting an end to weeks of protests for greater democracy and rule of law.

She was released after 450 days but was then jailed again in November 1994 for "illegally providing state secrets to institutions outside China's borders" in connection with four articles she wrote in the Hong Kong-based Mirror Monthly magazine.

Meanwhile, Beijing authorities are continuing to deny top rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang any meeting with his lawyers, as state prosecutors move ahead with his subversion trial, his lawyer told RFA last week.

Pu, 49, is being charged with "incitement to subvert state power," "incitement to separatism," "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and "illegally obtaining citizens' information."

And judges in Guangzhou's Tianhe's District People's Court have yet to pass sentence on Yang Maodong, better known by his nickname Guo Feixiong, and Sun Sihuo, better known as Sun Desheng, who stood trial earlier this month for "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."

The two men have been held in police detention since being detained in 2013, after taking part in street protests for press freedom and calling for greater government transparency and protection for human rights.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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