US calls for release of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

China says human rights a domestic issue

A pro-democracy protester holds a portrait of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, during a protest to call for the freeing of Chinese dissidents  in Hong Kong. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

A pro-democracy protester holds a portrait of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, during a protest to call for the freeing of Chinese dissidents in Hong Kong. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 21:56

US secretary of state John Kerry has called for the release of jailed Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo and for his wife Liu Xia’s extra-legal house arrest to end. Beijing responded by saying only the Chinese people had the right to talk about the country’s human rights.

With the fifth anniversary of Mr Liu’s detention approaching on Christmas Day, Mr Kerry said Washington remains deeply concerned about the couple’s treatment, along with that of other jailed government critics.

“We strongly urge Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo, to end Liu Xia’s house arrest, and to guarantee to Liu Xiaobo and his family members all internationally recognised human rights protections and freedoms,” Mr Kerry said in a statement.

Democracy advocate
A veteran dissident involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests crushed by the Chinese army, Mr Liu is a writer who was convicted of subversion in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison for circulating a petition calling for democracy.

The US and the European Union have regularly expressed concern about Mr Liu since he was jailed. Human rights groups are often critical, however, saying Western governments have toned down their calls for action on Liu Xiaobo so as not to upset trade links and because the international community does not want to lose Chinese support in resolving crises in Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Mr Liu was awarded the peace prize in 2010, and the Nobel Committee had an empty chair for him during the ceremony.

The Chinese government was harshly critical of the Nobel prize, and suspended much of its economic and diplomatic contact with Norway, where the award is presented.

No reason has been given for the house arrest of Ms Liu, but she has recently called for her basic rights to be respected.

Mr Kerry also expressed his concern for anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, who is expected to face trial soon.

“As the United States builds a constructive relationship with China, US leaders will continue to raise concerns related to respect for the rule of law, human rights, religious freedom, and democratic principles with their Chinese counterparts,” he said.

The Chinese response was to say that human rights were a domestic issue.