Exit Ban For Liu Supporters

Ahead of the Dec. 10 Nobel Prize presentation ceremony, jailed recipient Liu Xiaobo's supporters face a travel ban.

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china-liu-protest-305.jpg A protester holds a poster of Nobel Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo during Chinese leader Hu Jintao's visit to southern France, Nov. 6, 2010.

HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have prevented a number of top Chinese intellectuals linked to jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo from leaving the country, Beijing-based scholars said.

"I have heard of a lot of similar cases one after the other in recent days," said constitutional scholar Zhang Boshu, who was himself prevented from traveling to Taiwan to observe mayoral elections on the democratically ruled island.

The former professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said at least 10 people, many of whom had signed an open letter in support of the Liu's award in the face of strong official condemnation, had been stopped by border guards since the Nobel committee announced the prize decision on Oct. 8.

"[Beijing Film Academy professor] Hao Jian was refused permission," Zhang said. "And in the past couple of days, [rights lawyers] He Weifang and Mo Shaoping have both run into the same problem."

"I think it has to do with the Nobel prize-giving ceremony in Norway on Dec. 10," Zhang said. "Actually it's very stupid. You can corral everyone here, but a lot of us weren't even leaving China in order to attend that event."

Zhang said he had no plans to try to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, although several hundred of Liu's supporters have expressed interest in attending, organizers said.

Lack of respect

Chinese officials reacted furiously to the Nobel committee's decision, saying that giving Liu the award showed a lack of respect for China's legal system.

Liu, 54, was sentenced in December 2009 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.

Official commentaries have compared Liu's "crimes" with  incitement to racial hatred in other jurisdictions, or with plotting to dethrone Britain's Queen Elizabeth or assassinate President Obama.

Zhang said he thinks Beijing is out of step with international public opinion, however. "In front of the international community, this is a stupid and humiliating move to make," he said.

"When it happened to me, I said to them that this was a violation of my rights as a citizen," Zhang added.

Among others told they must remain in China were Beijing-based political scholar Xu Youyu and Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping.

Both Cui and Xu signed the Oct. 14 open letter in support of Liu's award, which called on China's leaders to take a rational and realistic attitude to the award.

Cui said she had planned to arrive in Rome on Friday to attend an Asian film festival hosted in Italy.

"They told me I didn't have approval to go," she said.

Cui said she was outraged at her treatment. "I am an international film critic, and this event was purely about film. It is extremely uncivilized of them not to let us attend, nor to travel there."

"I find it totally and utterly unacceptable to be unable to go overseas to attend normal scholarly and professional activities," Cui said.

"It is shocking and appalling that they should use such coercive measures against intellectuals," she said.

Stopped by police

Zhang said he had tried to leave mainland Chinese territory at the Lo Wu border crossing from Shenzhen into Hong Kong on Wednesday.

"They took me to a small room, and a policewoman came in a while later. I asked her why I wasn't being allowed to leave the country, but she said she wasn't able to give me an explanation."

"[Later], she came back and said it was the Beijing police department that had stopped me from leaving the country," he added.

Veteran pro-democracy activist and journalist Chen Ziming said he had also been stopped from going to Taiwan to attend an academic event.

"They invited me, sent an invitation letter," Chen said on Thursday.

"Last time I applied to Hong Kong it didn't work out because they didn't get me the permit you need. So I told them in advance I wanted to go to Taiwan and they said they would ask for instructions."

"Then they told me I wouldn't be able to go."

At the end of last month, authorities in Beijing and Shanghai prevented two prominent rights lawyers from leaving the country.

Both men were on their way to the United States to observe the democratic process of the mid-term elections, and to build contacts with U.S.-based legal profession.

China has warned other countries against attending the Nobel award ceremony, with diplomats from several countries saying last week that they have received letters from the Chinese embassy in Norway.

In Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said governments would have to "take responsibility for the consequences" if they show support for Liu.

The Chinese warnings do not appear to have dissuaded many Norway-based ambassadors, royalty, or celebrities from attending, however.

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


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