Obama urges China to free Nobel laureate Liu

Saturday, October 9, 2010

LONDON - US President Barack Obama has called on China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a media report said Saturday.

The 54-year-old activist was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for subversion.

Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, sparking a furious diplomatic row as China accused the Norwegian awards committee of honouring a “criminal”, telegraph.co.uk reported.

Chinese authorities denounced the award as an “obscenity” and warned it would damage ties between the two countries.

President Obama, who won the award last year, said he “welcomed” the decision to award the prize to Liu.

“Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I,” he said.

“That list now includes Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs.”

“We call on the Chinese government to release Liu as soon as possible,” he said.

He noted that China had made “dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty”.

“But 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,” he added.

The Nobel Committee said Liu was honoured “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The award drew a furious response from the Chinese foreign ministry, which said choosing Liu ran “completely counter to the principle of the prize”.

Norway said China had summoned its ambassador in Beijing to express its discontent while in Oslo, the Chinese ambassador met a state secretary at Norway’s foreign ministry.

A foreign ministry spokesman explained that the peace prize committee is independent of the government and that Norway wanted to maintain good relations with China.

“Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” the ministry said, warning that the decision would damage relations between China and Norway just as the two countries are negotiating a bilateral trade deal.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg responded that it “would be negative for China’s reputation in the world if they choose to do that”.

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