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Rediff.com  » News » Obama asks China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner

Obama asks China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner

October 09, 2010 12:51 IST

United States President Barack Obama has applauded the Nobel Committee's decision to honour jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo with the 2010 Peace Prize and asked Beijing to release the 'courageous' human rights activist as soon as possible.

"By granting the prize to Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Obama said in a statement on Friday night.

"This award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Liu as soon as possible," Obama said.

Welcoming the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu, Obama, who was the recipient of the coveted prize in 2009, said, "Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I. That list now includes Mr Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs."

"As I said last year in Oslo, even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal to all human beings," the US President said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also welcomed the decision of the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu. Throughout its history, the peace prize has often been used to recognise the heroism of those who have, through persistent and peaceful efforts, sought to build a world that is more fair and free, she said in a statement.

"Mr Liu has been a consistent advocate for fundamental freedoms and human rights for his fellow citizens and for peaceful political reform. Mr Liu's work, including his role in the drafting of Charter '08 (which called for greater freedom and an end to the Communist Party's political dominance), and his receipt of this honour highlight the fact that while China has made tremendous economic progress in the last three decades, political reform has lagged behind," Clinton said.

"As I said in Krakow this summer, governments should recognise the constructive role that citizens such as Liu Xiaobo play," Clinton said.

She urged China to uphold its international human rights obligations and respect the fundamental freedom and human rights of all Chinese citizens.

"We reiterate our call for Liu Xiaobo's immediate release from prison," Clinton said. The Congressional Executive Commission on China too applauded the decision of the Noble Committee to honour Liu, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence in a Chinese prison for "inciting subversion of state power."

He reportedly is the first person since 1935 to win the prize while in prison.

"We call on Chinese officials to release Mr Liu, and in doing so demonstrate through action the Chinese government's commitment to developing the rule of law and to upholding international human rights standards," said Nobel Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan and co-chairman Sander Levin in a joint statement.

As this year's recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, Liu joins the "pantheon of great leaders for non-violence, justice and freedom throughout history," said Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. "Liu Xiaobo is a champion for the best hopes of humankind, a courageous advocate for democracy and human rights in China, whose only crime was putting his political views into writing.

"His message of reform is an inspiration to the entire world. He and fellow activists deserve the attention and partnership of freedom-loving people everywhere," she said.

Washington-based Foreign Policy Initiative said Liu is perhaps the most prominent of China's many activists and thinkers trying to bring about democratic reform and individual liberty in China.

During the democracy protests of 1989, he returned to China from New York, where he was teaching, to join the demonstrators. On the night of June 3, with military forces preparing to crush the protesters, he persuaded many to leave Tiananmen square.

"In fact, most deaths occurred elsewhere in the city. He was jailed for his role at Tiananmen, and again for criticising (the ruling) Chinese Communist Party general secretary Jiang Zemin. The CCP is not his only target; in 2005 he took fellow Chinese citizens to task for racist comments on the internet about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," the FPI said

Lalit K Jha Washington
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