Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has been under house arrest since December, was honored yesterday with the Homo Homini Award, given each year by the People in Need Foundation, a European organization, to people who have distinguished themselves in the struggle for human rights.
Liu Xiaobo was honored together with 302 other scholars and personalities who signed the document Charter 08, published on December 9 to ask Beijing for more democracy and respect for human rights. The document was immediately censored in China, and websites that published it have been blocked, but over a few days it was endorsed by more than 8,000 people, including officials of the Communist Party who are convinced that change is necessary. Many of the signers have been interrogated by the police, and Liu was arrested.
The presentation states that Liu, a pro-democracy advocate and a student leader during the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, has been honored for "his comprehensive approach to promoting human rights and his persistent courage in fighting for freedom of speech in China over the last 30 years."
Meanwhile, on March 11 the family of the Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng arrived in the United States. Gao is known for his struggle for human rights, and disappeared weeks ago. He was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
Geng He, his wife, told Radio Free Asia yesterday that her husband was tortured. Gao was a member of the Communist Party, and in 2001 he was praised by the Chinese justice ministry as one of the 10 best lawyers in the country. Then he defended the rights of miners, underground Christians, and followers of Falun Gong against the authorities. In 2007, he wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress, but afterward he was arrested and tortured for weeks, including electric shocks to his genitals and cigarette burns on his body.
Geng He added that she and her two children, ages 15 and 5 (in an old photo with Gao) were placed under house arrest in Beijing, and constantly monitored, in order to pressure her husband. Her daughter was prevented from going to school, and attempted suicide in desperation. They were able to leave China only with the help of friends "who risked their own lives." After a long train voyage they arrived in Thailand on January 16, crossing the border on foot. From there, they went to the United States with the help of ChinaAid.
There has been no news of Gao since February 4, when he was taken by the police from his village in Shaanxi.