China Must End Political Repression, Release Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo
December 8, 2010
The International Community Must Reject the Chinese Government’s Open Challenge to Universal Values, Demand Release of All Chinese Prisoners of Conscience
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, December 9, 2010) – On December 10, Human Rights Day, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony will celebrate the dedication and personal sacrifices of 2010 laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), one of China’s leading voices for rights and democracy. Yet the day will be marked as well by the Chinese government’s escalating campaign to silence these voices. The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony will take place with the recipient’s chair unoccupied, as Liu Xiaobo remains in jail serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion” and his wife, Liu Xia (刘霞), relatives, and some of his close friends and associates held incommunicado illegally. None of the invitees to the ceremony from mainland China are believed to be attending the event, as the Chinese government has construed attendance by any Chinese citizen as a subversive act. (For a full list of the 143 invitees, and the restrictions preventing them from attending, please see the end of this press release.)
“The Chinese government is losing credibility by making a mockery of its own pledge to uphold international human rights standards. Its angry retaliation against the Nobel Peace Prize – by harassing its own citizens – reinforces the fact that it is the Chinese leaders, not the Chinese people, who reject the universal values of which the Nobel Peace Prize speaks,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “The current harsh crackdown further exposes the degenerating rights conditions in China, vindicating the vision and courage of the Nobel Committee to award this year’s Peace Prize to a Chinese political prisoner.”
The Chinese government has recently intensified its efforts to obstruct the December 10 ceremony, a crackdown which began the moment the Nobel Peace Prize was announced on October 8. Police across the country have put activists, dissidents, and prominent members of civil society under surveillance and restricted their movements; CHRD has documented over a hundred such cases to date. At least dozens more have been questioned or harassed by officials in order to intimidate them into silence about the Nobel Peace Prize, while at least five have been detained (though later released) in retaliation for celebrating the news. For a list of cases documented by CHRD, please see our website at https://www.nchrd.org/2010/10/14/nobel/.
While the use of these tactics by China’s powerful police apparatus is not new, the intensity with which they are being implemented has surpassed recent crackdowns. One activist contacted by CHRD called the pressure “worse than the buildup to the Beijing Olympics or after the release of Charter 08.” None of the restrictions imposed by the government—for example, cutting off internet and telephone lines, stationing police at the doors to activists’ homes, forcing activists to leave their city of residence—have any legal basis.
One notable development has been the government’s ban on international travel by prominent members of civil society or their family members in order to prevent anyone residing in China from going to Oslo. CHRD has attached to the end of this press release a summary of the restrictions faced by the 143 Chinese citizens invited to the ceremony by Liu Xia, of whom 140 are currently living on mainland China. None of these 140 appear able to leave the country. Some were threatened against attempting to travel, while others were stopped en route. Still others may have decided not to try to attend the ceremony in order to avoid trouble, while a small number may never have intended to attend, for various reasons. In addition to invitees from this list, CHRD has also documented at least a dozen cases in which lawyers, scholars, and activists or their family members have been stopped at airports or border crossings or denied passports since October 8.
“The obsessive focus on preventing activists from traveling to Oslo is completely irrational,” said Xia. “The more people are barred from leaving the country, and the harder the government works to stifle news of the Nobel ceremony domestically, the more meaning the event takes on for the curious ordinary Chinese. Many of China’s 420 million netizens will try to circumvent internet controls and express their excitement online.”
While most expect the overwhelming pressure on domestic activists to ease somewhat in the days following the Nobel ceremony, there is no indication that the award will bring freedom for the man that it honors. Liu Xiaobo’s 11-year prison sentence for his work on Charter 08, which marks its two-year anniversary today, is a testament to the Chinese government’s unrelenting prosecution of expression and repression of any calls for substantive political reform.
CHRD urges the Chinese government to unconditionally and immediately release Liu Xiaobo, free his wife Liu Xia from house arrest, and lift the soft detention, police surveillance, and travel ban on supporters of Liu Xiaobo and other human rights activists.
CHRD asks citizens and leaders of democratic countries to speak up in defending the universal values that the Nobel Peace Prize promotes and that the Chinese government has ostentatiously challenged. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, United States President Barack Obama, and other world leaders must speak publicly to protect the core values that define the institutions they serve – human rights, peace, and justice. Anything short of a clear and public statement in support of Liu Xiaobo would be viewed as weakness and an act of acquiescence to the Chinese government’s naked attack on these values.
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286
Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 1660