(New York) - Leading writers, China scholars, lawyers, and human rights advocates from around the world today are releasing a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging the writer Liu Xiaobo's immediate and unconditional release. Liu is one of some 300 original signatories of Charter 08, a call for the rule of law and respect for human rights in China.

A literary critic and former professor of literature, Liu Xiaobo has been held in incommunicado detention since December 8, 2008. Human Rights Watch has pointed out that the detention of Liu Xiaobo is arbitrary and violates the minimum procedural guarantees specified under Chinese law. Over 30 signatories of Charter 08 have been questioned, summoned by the police, or put under surveillance since Liu's arrest.

"Liu Xiaobo is the most significant Chinese dissident case in a decade," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "Jailing Liu might serve as a warning to other dissidents, but it would also indicate a political hardening that runs against the current aspirations of the Chinese people."

The list of prominent signatories of the letter to President Hu includes top China academics, legal experts, and writers and Nobel prize winners, including Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Nadine Gordimer, Seamus Heaney, Carlo Ginzburg, Wole Soyinka, and Hari Kunzru.