The New Zealand PEN Centre joins with many other PEN centres and human rights organisations throughout the world in calling on the Chinese government to release our colleague Liu Xiabo from prison. Mr. Liu has been President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre since 2003.
He was one of the leaders of the movement that led to the Tiananmen Square confrontation in 1989, after which he was imprisoned for six years. This and repeated terms of imprisonment since then have had no effect on Liu Xiabo’s consistent, peaceful statements favouring freedom of expression for people of all persuasions in China and other countries. Now in his mid fifties, he has developed the profile of one of the world’s leaders in the advocacy of human rights.
The writer and former Czech President Vaclav Havel has nominated Liu Xiabo for the Nobel Peace Prize. The German writer Herta Müller, as winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, is not permitted to make such a nomination but has spoken out vigorously in support of Havel ’s proposal. Others, including Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, have added their voices. All of these writers are members of PEN and we share with them our support of Liu Xiabo.
In December last year, Mr. Liu was again detained for his criticism of China ’s record on human rights. This was because he was one of more than three hundred Chinese citizens who signed “Charter O8”, a manifesto issued on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written in the style of the Czechoslovak Charter 77 and calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and free elections.
Diplomats from several countries, including New Zealand , were denied access to the court but stood on the steps outside for the duration of the trial. On 25 December 2009 Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."
In past interviews, Mr. Liu has thanked supporters from outside China and has remarked that the Chinese authorities have been shaken by the force of that support (especially on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Beijing ). For this reason, the New Zealand PEN Centre is adding its voice to those calling both for fair treatment for Liu Xiabo and for the right of the people of China to express their views without fear of repression by the state.