10 December 2010
End repression of expression: Free Liu Xiaobo

Dr Liu Xiaobo, prominent Chinese literary scholar, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 8 October 2010 for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. He has dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize “to all those who have sacrificed their lives in non-violent struggle for peace, democracy and freedom”.

On 10 December, his seat at the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony remained empty because he is in prison for "inciting subversion".

This is the fourth time Liu Xiaobo has been detained as a prisoner of conscience.

He was first detained after the 1989 pro-democracy movement. For Liu Xiaobo, like many others of his generation, June 1989 was
a “major turning point”. Since then, he has written prolifically, criticizing corruption, censorship and one-party rule and advocating the development of a democratic multi-party political system in China.

He served as the President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre from 2003 to 2007. He co-authored Charter 08, which calls for effective protection of universal human rights and democratic reform.

Although best known for his calls for political reform, Liu Xiaobo has also defended other human rights. He has spoken out against
discrimination faced by migrant workers and people living with HIV/AIDS. He has also defended workers protesting against corrupt

Sign a petition to the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and Minister of Justice Wu Aiying.

We, the undersigned, are outraged that Dr Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, remains in prison in China. Following an unfair trial, a Beijing court sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years’ imprisonment on 25 December 2009 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Liu Xiaobo was convicted for his role in drafting Charter 08, a proposal for legal and political reform in China, initially signed by 300 scholars, lawyers, and officials. More than 10,000 people have added their names to Charter 08 after it was published online on 9 December 2008. The court also said Liu Xiaobo engaged in “rumour mongering, slander and smear” that exceeded the limits of freedom of expression and constituted a criminal offence, citing six articles in which he criticized official corruption, censorship, and one-party rule.

Liu Xiaobo has consistently maintained that he is innocent. Whilst admitting writing the articles listed in the indictment and the verdict, he says he was simply exercising his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in China’s constitution. We agree.

We believe that the ongoing imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo runs counter to the spirit and letter of China’s Constitution. Article 35 grants Chinese citizens freedom of speech. Article 41 states that citizens have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary. The Constitution also grants the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress power to grant special pardons. We urge you to use this power and release Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally.   

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are also guaranteed in international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed and repeatedly expressed an intention to ratify.

Image: Demonstration calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo in front of the Chinese embassy in Oslo, Norway, 9 December 2010. ©Greg Rødland Buick

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