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Nobel Prize Laureates urge Obama to advocate release of Chinese dissident


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Nobel Prize Laureates urge Obama to advocate release of Chinese dissident

China’s massive economic growth over the past years seems to have blurred, at least in the eyes of diplomats and international leaders, but the restrictions that the mono-party government imposes on its people have not. The Asian superpower has become the second-largest economy in the world and has earned a seat at the “world’s most powerful” table. But while the world press is focused on cybernetic attacks and the fluctuation of the yuan, a group of twelve Nobel Laureates have asked Obama to advocate the release of one of their fellows.

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights.” These are the words of China’s Liu Xiaobo, currently under house arrest in his country.

Xiaobo, a pro-democracy supporter, was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2010. In 2009 he was sentenced to ten years in reclusion for the diffusion of a petition against Beijing’s single-party regime. Liu is a Chinese people’s dissident veteran. Twenty years before, during Tiananmen Square events, he was there. The 1989 protests were crushed by Deng Xiaoping’s army, and every year, during the anniversary, hundreds are jailed all over the country, where commemorations and manifestations in memory of the events are banned. His wife Liu Xia was also sentenced to house arrest. Despite for years requesting to receive needed medical treatment abroad, the leaders of the Communist party still publicly deny her imprisonment.

The Nobel Laureates, led by the South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, are supported by Freedom Now, an organisation which advocates the liberation of political prisoners. Its founder has followed Liu Xiaobo and his wife’s case pro bono. After asking for the immediate release of the two dissidents in their letter to president Obama, who won the peace award in 2009, the group concluded: “All attempts to resolve their detentions through private diplomacy have failed. We believe that unless leaders like you take urgent action, both publicly and privately, that China will continue to believe it can act with impunity and without consequence for its behaviour.”

Last month, ten US senators asked Obama to use Chinese president Xi Jinping’s September visit to bring to light what they defined as “an unacceptable violation of human rights” and to ask for the immediate release of Liu, his poet wife and other political dissidents. Washington has openly encouraged the Chinese government to modify its attitude in preparation for Friday’s official meetings. However, according to many American activists, Obama’s administration is more concerned with the expansion of economic ties with the Asian giant.

If on one hand China’s rise to become a great superpower will inevitably clash with its civil and social repressions, on the other hand, its global position doesn’t currently seem threatened. The international community is seemingly more worried about markets and not human rights violations inside the People’s Republic.

Read the ‘Freedom Now’ letter here.



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