Pressure Mounts to Free Liu

Nobel laureates lobby on behalf of a jailed Chinese prize recipient.
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Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in a photo taken in Beijing, Oct. 22, 2002.
Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in a photo taken in Beijing, Oct. 22, 2002.

HONG KONG—Pressure is mounting on Beijing to free jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo ahead of the December award presentation ceremony in Oslo, as more than a dozen Nobel laureates campaigned for his release.

A group of 15 former peace prize winners urged U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders in a letter to increase the pressure on Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa, and Jimmy Carter, among others, the letter called for Liu's case to be raised in talks with Hu at the G20 summit on Nov. 10-11.

"We strongly urge you to personally impress upon Chinese President Hu Jintao that the release of Dr. Liu would not only be welcome, but is necessary," said the letter, which was made public by the Freedom Now advocacy group.

It also called on world leaders to press Hu to release Liu's wife, Liu Xia, who has been "denied almost all ability to communicate with the outside world" since the award was announced on Oct. 8.

"We strongly and respectfully urge that your respective governments request the Chinese government immediately release her from house arrest and enable her to communicate freely with whomever she wishes," the letter said.

Liu Xiaobo, 54, was sentenced in December to 11 years in jail on subversion charges in what is widely seen as retaliation for his authoring an appeal for political reform and respect for human rights.

The United States and the European Union have called for the dissident's release and also urged Beijing to lift its house arrest of Liu Xia.

Wife to attend?

Liu Xia has been invited to receive the award in Oslo on Dec. 10 on behalf of her husband, but has been held virtually under house arrest at the couple's Beijing home for two weeks, with scant communication with the outside world.

She has invited 145 friends and supporters to attend the event alongside her, but few expect that they will be allowed to leave China to make the trip.

One of Liu Xiaobo's lawyers, Beijing-based Mo Shaoping, said Liu Xia's mobile phone and Internet access had been cut off by the authorities.

"Last week I was unable to contact Liu Xia directly, and had to go through [her brother] Liu Hui," Mo said.

"Liu Hui said she was doing OK, but that she couldn't get online, because her computer had been infected with a virus and crashed."

The authorities had also cut off former top Communist Party aide Bao Tong from communicating with the outside world, his son said.

"I haven't been able to get through to him by phone since Oct. 8," said his Hong Kong-based son Bao Pu. "Not on his mobile phone, nor any other phone line."

"As soon as you try, there's suddenly a problem on the line and you can't get through," he said.

He said journalists who had previously had access to Bao Tong for interviews were now unable to visit him at his Beijing home, where he has been held under house arrest since finishing a seven-year jail term in the wake of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

The crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square that year led to the fall of Bao's political mentor, the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang.

"It hasn't been like this since the Olympics in 2008," Bao Pu added.

Appeal shelved

Another lawyer for Liu Xiaobo, Shang Baojun, said last week that the tight controls imposed on Liu Xia following the announcement of Liu's award had prompted him to shelve the appeal for his release for the time being.

Police across China have swooped down in recent days on any activists associated with Charter 08—which Liu Xiaobo co-authored—or campaigns in support of Liu.

Chinese officials have repeatedly hit out at the decision by the Nobel committee, calling Liu Xiaobo a "criminal" and saying his award demonstrates a lack of respect for Chinese laws.

Liu was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for his role in Charter 08, a document calling for sweeping changes in China's government.

A pro-democracy manifesto that called on the Communist Party to enact political reforms and uphold the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens, Charter 08 was signed by 303 mainland intellectuals and sent shock waves through the highest echelons of China’s leadership.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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