In the wake of today’s announcement that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni rights activist Tawakkul Karman, Reporters Without Borders urges the laureates to press the Chinese government to free last year’s winner of the award, Liu Xiaobo.
A dissident writer and intellectual who is serving an 11-year jail sentence, Liu is the only Nobel peace laureate currently in prison.
“We congratulate this year’s laureates and welcome the fact that this triple award pays tribute to their work on behalf of women’s rights, a vital cause,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “We urge Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman to bring all their moral weight to bear on the Chinese government so that Liu can be released and the harassment of his family and friends can end.
“Liu’s continuing detention and the especially strict surveillance of his family should be the subject of a major campaign by all human rights activists. A year after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu is not only still detained but is also subject to most strict solitary confinement and is being denied the family visits that the law allows him. This situation is unacceptable.”
Jean-Philippe Béja, a French sinologist who is a friend of Liu, said: “The situation of human rights activists has deteriorated a great deal in the course of 2011. Some have ‘disappeared,” others have been beaten or threatened. Liu’s wife is still under house arrest and is being denied any contact with the outside world. She can only leave her home once a week.”
In conciliatory gestures apparently designed to defuse tension in the run-up to the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the authorities allowed Liu to attend his father’s funeral in August and let him have two family visits in September, the first since he was convicted in 2009.
Arrested in December 2008, Liu was sentenced on 25 December 2009 to 11 years in prison on a charge of subverting state authority for posting outspoken articles online and for helping to draft Charter 08, a call for democratic reform.
Inspired by Charter 77, the charter circulated by Czechoslovak dissidents in 1977, Charter 08 was released on 8 December 2008, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally signed by some 300 intellectuals and human rights activists, it now has more than 10,000 signatures.