(New York) - More than one hundred leading China scholars, writers, and human rights advocates from around the world are today releasing a letter to China's National People's Congress that calls for the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Liu, a long-time critic of the government, was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for his publication of six political essays and for his role in the drafting of Charter 08, a petition calling for the rule of law and respect for human rights in China.
"Imprisoning Liu Xiaobo for his criticism of the government is a stain on China's reputation and standing in the world," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of punishing and making an example of Liu, the Chinese government should address the concerns expressed in Charter 08."
The National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, is currently holding its annual plenary meeting, attended by more than 3,000 delegates. By law, the NPC has the power "to supervise the enforcement of the Constitution," which formally guarantees Chinese citizens "freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration."
In a statement prepared before the December 2009 court session when he was sentenced to 11-years' imprisonment for "incitement to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system," Liu had reaffirmed his commitment to the universal ideas of justice and democracy:
"I believe that my work has been just, and that someday China will be a free and democratic country," he wrote. "Our people then will bathe in the sunshine of freedom from fear. I am paying a price to move us in that direction, but without the slightest regret. I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer."
In January 2010, Liu was endorsed for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize by a group of prominent individuals that includes Nobel laureates Václav Havel, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu.