01/25/2010, 00.00
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Communist leaders call for a review of Liu Xiaobo’s conviction

Four senior Communist Party officials call on the government to reverse the sentence against the activist and Charter 08 author. Past Nobel Peace Prize laureates call on Nobel committee to give the Chinese dissident this year’s award.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Four senior Communist Party officials known for their liberal views have released an open letter calling for a review of the conviction of dissident and Charter 08 author Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Whilst the letter did not call for Liu's release, it did indicate that the four officials are convinced of his innocence. Meanwhile, eight internationally known figures have called on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to select the Chinese scholar for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

The open letter was published on the website of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre, an organisation that promotes freedom of information in China. Its vice-president, Patrick Poon, said, “These four are senior cadres that have been quite an open-minded force within the party for many years” and “have been always very supportive for pushing forward political reforms while the economic reform has been going well in China."

The letter does not call specifically for Liu's release, but He Fang, one of the officials who signed the letter and an honorary member of the academic committee at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was direct when asked by phone what its purpose was, namely “To reverse the verdict and to find that Liu is not guilty and to release him” so as to “safeguard the constitution and the rights of freedom of speech.”

Liu Xiaobo is a well-known university professor who (along with 300 more people) signed a public petition a year ago. Named Charter 08, the appeal calls on the government to satisfy the Chinese people’s demand for democracy and freedom. Respect for human rights, including religious freedom, is the only path to sustain the country’s economic progress and save it from the distortions caused by dictatorship, corruption and social and environmental degradation. On 25 December 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “anti-state subversion.”

After the sentence, more than 200 prominent Chinese asked the government to arrest them as they did with Liu because they shared his ideas. Now this letter shows that the fight is inside the party as well.

Hu Jiwei, a former chief of the People's Daily newspaper wrote the letter. In addition to Hu and He Fang, the other signatories are Li Pu, a former deputy chief of the official Xinhua News Agency, and Dai Huang, a former Xinhua senior reporter. All four are in their 80s and 90s, which could provide them with a certain degree of protection from harassment.

In their harshest criticism, the four wrote, “If the judge violates the constitution and has no knowledge of the history of the party [. . .] and makes false and incorrect accusations that will seriously tarnish the image of the country and the party, then it's difficult to prove that China is a country ruled by law and a harmonious society”.

In parallel to developments in China, a campaign is underway to have the Nobel Committee award Liu the 2020 Peace Prize. According to an open letter promoting the candidacy of the Chinese dissident, “Liu's committed advocacy on behalf of democracy in China is, above all, intended for the benefit of the Chinese people. But his courage and example may help to accelerate the dawn of the day when China's participation in international affairs is aided by the expertise and oversight of civil society groups, an independent media, and an engaged citizenry able to express its views through the ballot box.”

The Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel and Desmond Tutu are among the letter’s authors.

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