Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned Chinese writer, wins Nobel Peace Prize
"We are absolutely delighted that Liu Xiaobo, our PEN colleague and a nominee who has the support of PEN members in many nations, has been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize," Appiah said today. "We hope the Chinese authorities receive this wise decision by the Nobel Committee as the rest of the world will receive it - as recognition of the power of its citizens to guide and shape their future in a peaceful way. We ask the citizens and leaders of every nation to join us in urging the Chinese government to honor the award's spirit by setting him and all his imprisoned colleagues free."
"PEN has always stood not only for free expression but also for cultural exchange across nations," Appiah continued. "We believe we all have a great deal to gain from hearing from China. A China with greater free expression will not only be better for the Chinese, it will allow her citizens - and her government - a louder, stronger voice in the community of nations."
Liu Xiaobo was arrested on December 8, 2008, on the eve of the release of Charter 08, a groundbreaking declaration he co-authored calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China. The document has gained over 10,000 signatures from citizens across China. Liu was held nearly incommunicado at an undisclosed location outside Beijing for over six months before he was formally charged with "inciting subversion of state power." He was tried in a closed court on December 23, 2009, and on December 25, was convicted of the charge, based on Charter 08 and six essays he authored, and sentenced to 11 years in prison - the longest sentence ever given on this particular charge. Liu's appeal was rejected in February, and on May 24, 2010, he was transferred to Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province, hundreds of miles from his home in Beijing. His wife, Liu Xia, is only permitted to visit him once a month.
In 1989, Liu staged a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in support of the student demonstrators and led calls for a truly broad-based, sustainable democratic movement. He was instrumental in preventing even further bloodshed in the Square by supporting and advancing a call for non-violence on the part of the students. He spent nearly two years in prison for his role, and another three years of "reeducation through labor" in 1996 for publicly questioning the role of the single-party system and calling for dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama of Tibet. In 2004, his phone lines and Internet connection were cut after the release of his essay criticizing the use of "subversion" charges used to silence journalists and activists, and he has been the target of regular police surveillance and harassment in the years since.
Liu Xiaobo is also the recipient of the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression.
At least 45 writers are currently in prison in China for their writings. Four of them, including Liu Xiaobo, are members of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), which is composed of 300 writers living inside and outside of China; Liu helped found the center and is a past president and board member. Since ICPC was formed in 2001, it has had meetings interrupted and canceled by authorities, its officers and members are regularly surveilled, and several have been detained and questioned about the center's activities. As ICPC has emerged as an important voice for freedom of expression in China, it has come under increased pressure in the last three years.
During that time, PEN American Center has led an international campaign to free writers and increase protections for freedom of expression in China, highlighted by a New Year's Eve rally for Liu Xiaobo's release following his conviction that featured leading American writers, as well as Appiah's nomination of Liu for the Nobel Peace Prize. Appiah said today that the news that Liu has received the prize will also serve to inspire PEN's work for freedom of expression worldwide.
"In a letter passed to his lawyers after his sentencing last December, Liu Xiaobo said, 'For an intellectual thirsty for freedom in a dictatorial country, prison is the very first threshold. Now I have stepped over the threshold, and freedom is near,'" Appiah recalled. "It is through the sacrifice of writers like Liu Xiaobo that freedom of expression gains ground. And it is through international solidarity, represented best by the Nobel Peace Prize, that those who make these crucial sacrifices are sustained and freed."
Addressing Liu Xiaobo directly, Appiah added, "We will not stop fighting for you, my friend, until you are released."
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