Several Reporters Without Borders representatives were arrested near the Arc de Triomphe this morning in Paris after opening umbrellas bearing the words “Free Liu Xiaobo” as Chinese President Hu Jintao passed by in a motorcade on his way to deposit a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A total of six people – four Reporters Without Borders members and two other human rights activists – were taken to the 8th Arrondissement police station. Around 20 Reporters Without Borders members and a Canal Plus journalist were briefly detained by police at the Franklin Roosevelt metro station. Chinese pro-democracy activist Wang Longmeng (王龙蒙) was among those who were stopped.
The arrests reflect the French government’s determination to suppress any reference to human rights in China in order not to offend President Hu during the three-day state visit he began yesterday. By staging a peaceful demonstration in support of Liu Xiaobo (刘哓波) and all the other dissidents, writers and human rights activists detained in China, Reporters Without Borders aimed to tear down this crass and disgraceful veil of silence.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said: “It is unthinkable that France, the country of human rights, is saying nothing about the situation of China’s dissidents and the systematic repression on those who advocate democracy. How can President Nicolas Sarkozy go back on the promise he made during the 2007 campaign to put human rights at the centre of his foreign policy?”
Despite the realpolitik, the umbrellas defied the silence at the Arc de Triomphe today, as did the doves of peace that Reporters Without Borders released yesterday in the centre of Paris. Both of these demonstrations were a tribute to the courage of Liu Xiaobo, this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who must be released. The French government must ask President Hu to free him.