Nobel winners urge China to release Liu Xiaobo

Nobel winners urge China to release Liu Xiaobo

BEIJING - The Associated Press
Nobel winners urge China to release Liu Xiaobo

In this file photo taken in April 2008, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo poses for a photographer in China. AP Photo

Five Nobel Peace Prize winners have launched a campaign urging the release of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a fellow Nobel recipient, a statement from the group said Friday.

The plea comes a day before the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize is to be presented in Oslo, Norway, and a year after Liu's award ceremony, which he was unable to attend.

Liu's empty chair at that ceremony is still a symbol of Chinese government repression, and Chinese Web search engines have blocked the phrase "empty chair" in a bid to shut down discussion of his case.

The International Committee of Support to Liu Xiaobo said Liu is the only Nobel laureate currently in prison, and accused the international community of forgetting his plight.

Liu co-authored a manifesto in 2008 calling for an end to single-party rule in China, and was detained later that year. His call for peaceful political change resulted in an 11-year jail sentence on charges of "inciting subversion of state power." "Unfortunately, the sentencing to 11 years in prison seems to be forgotten slowly but steadily outside China," said the group, which called for Liu's "immediate and unconditional release." The announcement of Liu's Nobel prize last year cheered China's fractured, persecuted dissident community and brought calls from the U.S., Germany and others for his release. It also infuriated the Chinese government, and authorities harassed and detained dozens of Liu's supporters in the weeks that followed.

It resulted in harsh treatment of Liu's wife, Liu Xia, who has largely been held incommunicado, effectively under house arrest, watched by police, without phone or Internet access and prohibited from seeing all but a few family members.

The campaign for Liu's release includes Nobel winners Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams and Desmond Tutu. Also involved are former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and activists from Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups.