Tutu, Havel urge China to release Nobel Peace Prize winner

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech president Vaclav Havel on Sunday demanded "the unconditional release" of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, in an article published by a British newspaper.

Ahead of the Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo on Friday and writing in The Observer, Tutu and Havel said the dissident's imprisonment was "sadly emblematic of the Chinese government's intolerance to individual expression".

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in October to Liu, who was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for democratic reform in one-party China.

Tutu, the archbishop of the Anglican Church in Cape Town during apartheid, and Havel, who is a playwright, are honorary co-chairs of independent US lobby group Freedom Now, which campaigns for the freedom of prisoners of conscience.

"China now has the unique opportunity to chart a new course, one that appropriately claims the mantle of being a world leader in every respect, including an embrace of its obligations to promote and protect of human rights," wrote Tutu and Havel.

"But such an approach must begin by China respecting its obligations under its constitution and international agreements.

"The first step must be the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, before the Nobel peace prize award ceremony on Friday," they added. Liu Xia is under house arrest.

© 2010 AFP

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