NY times: Petition Urges Nobel for Jailed Chinese Writer
BEIJING — In a move sure to irk the Chinese government, a group of 300 scholars, lawyers, factory workers and retired government officials have signed a petition calling on the Nobel Peace Prize committee to award this year’s prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned writer who has spent much of his life calling for democratic reform in China.
Last December Mr. Liu, 54, an essayist and a former literature professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for writings that the government said were intended to subvert state power. But his greatest crime was thought to be his role in drafting Charter 08, a petition that called on the Chinese Communist Party to end its authoritarian ways by embracing human rights, an independent judiciary and multiparty elections.
Modeled on Charter 77, the manifesto drafted by Czechoslovakian rights advocates three decades earlier, Charter 08 eventually garnered some 10,000 signatures before government censors pulled it from the Internet. Prior to his conviction in December, Mr. Liu spent three years in labor camp for his pro-democracy appeals.
The latest petition, which began circulating Friday, comes just days after Vaclav Havel, Dana Nemcova and Vaclav Maly, leaders of Czechoslovakia’s so-called Velvet Revolution, published an open letter in The International Herald Tribune backing Mr. Liu’s candidacy.
“We ask the Nobel Committee to honor Liu Xiaobo’s more than two decades of unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform, and to make him the first Chinese recipient of that prestigious award,” they wrote. “In doing so, the Nobel Committee would signal both to Liu and to the Chinese government that many inside China and around the world stand in solidarity with him, and his unwavering vision of freedom and human rights for the 1. 3 billion people of China.”
In addition to endorsing the letter, the Chinese petition repeated some pointed criticisms of the Chinese government referred to, including government corruption and social injustice. The petition suggested that by choosing Mr. Liu, the prize committee could influence political change in a country that shows no signs of abandoning single-party rule.
Zhang Zuhua, an outspoken political theorist who signed the latest petition, described it as a spontaneous response to the Havel letter. Because the government has effectively blocked it from the Internet in China, he said, the petition has been circulating via Twitter, which is accessible only by those with software that circumvents the so-called Great Firewall.
“For obvious reasons, it’s not convenient for me to disclose its author,” said Mr. Zhang, whose involvement with Charter 08 led to round-the-clock police surveillance. “But I hope the Nobel Peace Prize committee can focus more attention on China, which desperately needs it right now.”
Chinese rights advocates have had their hopes raised and dashed before. In 2008 Hu Jia, another dissident who is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence, was said to be on the short list. That year, however, the award went to Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland.
Li Bibo contributed research.