Nobel Laureates urge President-elect Xi Jinping to free Liu Xiaobo | Asia Pacific

Nobel Laureates urge President-elect Xi Jinping to free Liu Xiaobo

Nobel Laureates urge President-elect Xi Jinping to free Liu Xiaobo

Updated 5 December 2012, 22:07 AEDT

Nobel Laureates past and present have launched a campaign, urging incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to release immediately, the scholar and democracy campaigner, Liu Xiaobo.

134 Nobel Laureates signed the petition for Mr Liu, who was named Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2010.

His wife, Liu Xia is currently under house arrest.

The Nobel Laureate campaign also aims to highlight the Liu Xiaobo issue among the general public, and is supported by fifteen world NGOs.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Marie Holzman, China specialist and President of Solidarity Chine in France

HOLZMAN: There're various reasons why we sent out this petition now. Liu Xiaobo was arrested in December 2008, he received the Nobel Peace prize in December 2010, and the future President of China, Xi Jinping was nominated in October this year. So we figured it was time to say something for Liu Xiaobo to this new President of China. We don't know exactly what his political options will be, but we want to tell him that there are 134 Nobel Laureates who care about Liu Xiaobo. We don't want to give them the feeling (the Chinese leaders) that we have forgotten about Liu Xiaobo, which is the impression they could've got because the world is so silent about this very exceptional political prisoner.

LAM: Tell us very briefly, about Liu Xiaobo and what happened to him.

HOLZMAN: Liu Xiaobo was involved in the 1989 event (Tiananmen student protests). At that time he was literature professor in America. He heard about Tiananmen and the massive demonstration asking for democracy, so he returned to Beijing. And when he saw the army was about to crush this pacific (pacifist) movement, he negotiated with the army, to allow them to leave, for the students to get out of Tiananmen Square, before they brought in the tanks and the army. So at that time, he played a very important role and probably saved many lives.

After that, he's just been in and out of jail. The poor man's been sentenced four times - this time in 2008 was the fourth time - and has spent many years in jail. When he was out of jail, he very quietly went back to his computer and wrote articles about was going on in China. He gave the Chinese leaders a few hints about, how to slowly go towards state respected, less violation of human rights, more respect for law, et cetera.

The Charter 08 was the last thing he did. That was not done by Liu Xiaobo alone, it was a group of Chinese intellectuals, who made suggestions for the Chinese leaders to change the constition and at least give them some ideas of what could be done, to make the Chinese system a less oppressive one for the Chinese citizens.

LAM: And what is the current situation with Liu Xiaobo and also his wife, Liu Xia, who's under house arrest? What news do you have of the couple?

HOLZMAN: Well, to tell you the truth, we don't have any news. Of course, we know that he's still in jail in the province of Liaoning - north of Beijing, several hours by train and at least five or six hours by car, for Liu Xia to visit him. Maybe once every two months, but we don't know. What we do know is that if she started talking to us, or the outside world about her visits to Liu Xiaobo, then she would be forbidden to visit him. So she's under surveillance, she can't go out. Eversince Liu Xiaobo got nominated for the peace prize two years ago, she's been under house arrest. None of her friends have been able to get in touch with her.

In some ways, we're even more shocked by Liu Xia's situation, because she committed no crime and second, did not go to trial nor sentenced to anything, but is suffering.

LAM: The list of Nobel Laureates is certainly impressive, but you're also encouraging the public to sign, through a global citizens' petition - can you tell us about that?

HOLZMAN: We have the feeling that Liu Xiaobo's name has not been named highly enough - in France, anyway, I don't know about Australia. So something has to be done. Most people have forgotten that there is a Chinese Nobel Peace Prize (Laureate) in jail. So through this petition, through this noise, we hope to let the whole world remember that after Aung San Suu Kyi, who's free now - right now, there's only one Nobel Peace Prize (laureate) who's in jail - and that's Liu Xiaobo.

LAM: As you pointed out, we don't know what hue or colour the leadership of Xi Jinping might take when he takes over the leadership in Beijing, and it has been pointed out that reform and change (in China) cannot be too dramatic, but you're hopeful that the petition might have some impact?

HOLZMAN: (Sigh). I don't know if I should say this, but we're not really hopeful, unfortunately. The Communist Party has its way of reasoning that doesn't belong to most human beings. if there is some sort of change in the Chinese Communist party, it will be because the Communist Party needs it. I'm not sure it'll come from our pressure. But we feel a moral obligation to remind the world and the Chinese government that we care about Liu Xiaobo and that it's a disgrace to keep this man in jail, in spite of the fact that he has committed absolutely no crime!

And behind Liu Xiaobo, you have so many other people. I would like to mention the name of Li Bi Feng. He's just been sentenced to twelve years, and he has committed no crime either! But we know he's a Chinese Democrat, pushing for Chinese democratic reforms. He was sentenced in November, to twelve years in jail, for no reason at all.

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