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Chinese activists urge Beijing to release Liu Xiaobo

October 18, 2010

More than 100 Chinese writers, lawyers and
activists sign letter urging government to release Nobel peace prize winner
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Guardian (UK)
October 15, 2010

BEIJING - More than 100 Chinese writers, lawyers and activists have released

a letter urging the government to release the Nobel peace prize winner Liu

Xiaobo and other political prisoners.

The letter, issued late last night, comes amid
the detention and monitoring of dissidents, which
they believe reflects the government's anxieties
about the award as well as a major political
meeting that begins today.It calls for the
government to approach the award with "realism
and reason" and follows a spate of angry
denunciations of the prize. Yesterday a foreign
ministry spokesman said the Nobel committee was
"encouraging crime" in China by giving the award
to Liu, who is serving 11 years for incitement to subvert state power.

A series of furious editorials and opinion pieces
have also attacked Norway and the prize committee.

The letter describes Liu as "a splendid choice",
adding: "We call upon the authorities to release
all political prisoners and prisoners of
conscience who are in detention for reasons such
as their speech, their political views, or their
religious beliefs. We ask that legal procedures
aimed at freeing Liu Xiaobo be undertaken without
delay, and that Liu and his wife be permitted to
travel to Oslo to accept the Nobel peace prize."

The writers also call for China to embrace
universal values and say they are ready to engage
actively in the promotion of political reform
after the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, raised the issue.

Some signatories to the letter received
threatening calls from the police even before it
was published it, said Xu Youyu, a professor with
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"We thought we had to say something," he told
Associated Press. "The government is still doing the same things."

Other signatories include the well-known lawyers
Teng Biao and Pu Zhiqiang, academic Cui Weiping,
Tibetan poet Woeser and journalist Li Datong.Li
said: "He has already won the Nobel peace prize
and you [the government] are still keeping him in
prison … If something is right, we have to support it."

Others unconnected to the letter have also been
affected. Yu Jie, author of the book China's Best
Actor: Wen Jiabao, said police had met him off a flight from America.

"There are three domestic security cops who are
watching me. When I am home, they are downstairs;
when I go out, I have to go in their car. Now I
am in the supermarket buying stuff and they are here as well," he said.

"I think it is because of Liu Xiaobo winning the
prize -– I am a good friend of his and they are
afraid that I might participate in some related 'activities.'"

Liu's wife Liu Xia, who has been placed under
house arrest, tweeted yesterday that Ding Zilin,
the head of the Tiananmen Mothers, and her
husband, Jiang Peikun, had disappeared. She had
earlier said that Liu Xiaobo had dedicated his
Nobel award to "the dead spirits of Tiananmen."

Ding and Jiang's number was unobtainable and
other members of the group – made up of those
bereaved by the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen
Square protests in 1989 – said they had been
unable to reach Ding for several days.

"We are increasingly concerned about the
escalation of measures taken against dissidents
and activists at the moment," said Nicholas
Bequelin, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

He added: "There is a flagrant contradiction. On
the one hand they argue the Nobel should not be
awarded to a criminal. At the same time they are
implementing unlawful measures against dozens of people, including Liu Xia."

Dissidents often face greater pressure in the
run-up to major political meetings.

The party plenum, a meeting of top leaders, may
be used to give Xi Jinping, heir apparent to
president Hu Jintao, a promotion. But observers
believe that Wen and others are pushing to at
least discuss political restructuring.
Wen has repeatedly raised the need for political
reform in recent speeches and interviews. Most
Chinese media outlets have not included those
remarks in their reports although the
boundary-pushing Southern Weekend ran them yesterday.

"Even the premier of our country does not have
freedom of speech or of the press," a group of
party elders complained in another open letter
this week. It called for an end to censorship – a
step seen by many as the first move towards broader changes.

NOTE FROM PHAYUL -- Beijing based Tibetan writer
and blogger Woser is among the signatories.
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