» 03/13/2009, 00.00
Human rights award for Liu Xiaobo and for Charter 08
The prize for Liu, under house arrest since December, is intended to recognize his struggle for human rights and freedom of speech. Meanwhile, the family of the activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng has fled to the United States, and is denouncing constant intimidation and torture.
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.
Party official issues urgent call for democratic reforms
Within the Communist Party itself, a growing number of voices are calling for political reforms, less censorship, and room for dissent. They are applying pressure to the leaders, who want to talk only about the economy. The police "sequester" a signer of Charter 08 for hours.
Falun Gong members commemorate 10 years of persecution in China
Public demonstrations in Asia and the world against the Chinese Communist Party. In 1999, the group had more than 70 million members in China, and conducted a protest demonstration. Since then, the group has been banned and its members punished with imprisonment and torture.
The "usual" Chinese policy: dissidents arrested ahead of National People's Congress
They are authors of petitions, pro-democracy activists, defenders of human rights: they will be released after the conclusion of the NPC. Yuan Xianchen has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for defending the rights of miners, and calling for more democracy.
Arrests continue for signers of Charter 08
More signers of the document calling for respect for human rights are in jail, or under house arrest. But President Hu says that China will promote human rights only according to "the basic situation of the country."
Defense attorney for Falun Gong beaten bloody by police
A brutal attack yesterday in Chengdu, in broad daylight. When the police arrived, the attackers said they were public officials, and no charges were filed. An alarming rise in violence and intimidation against lawyers who defend human rights.
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