WASHINGTON: Twelve Nobel peace prize winners have urged fellow laureate US President Barack Obama to press for the release of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo when he meets his Chinese counterpart on Friday.
Obama, who won the 2009 award, will meet President Xi Jinping at the White House and is under pressure to deliver the Chinese leader a strong human rights message.
In a letter dated September 2 and seen by AFP, a dozen peace prize winners — including revered South African churchman Desmond Tutu, Polish anti-Communist leader Lech Walesa and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama — call for Liu’s release.
“We are writing as your fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureates to ask that you call publicly on the Government of China to release from house arrest Liu Xia, the wife of our imprisoned fellow Laureate Dr. Liu Xiaobo, and to allow her to travel abroad for medical treatment as she has requested,” they wrote.
“We also ask that you urge his immediate release as well,” they added.
“All attempts to resolve their detentions through private diplomacy have failed. We believe that unless leaders like you take urgent action, both publicly and privately, that China will continue to believe it can act with impunity and without consequence for its behavior.”
Liu, a writer and intellectual, was imprisoned in 2009 for “subversion” and is six years into an 11-year sentence.
Obama has promised to address the issue of human and civic rights with Xi, but campaigners are concerned they will be forgotten amid the pomp of a state visit and alongside the leaders’ dense agenda of economic and geopolitical issues.