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Writers, scholars call for release of top China dissident

BEIJING, March 10 (AFP) - More than 100 writers, scholars and human rights activists have submitted a letter to China's parliament calling for the release of leading dissident Liu Xiaobo, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Signatories to the letter -- dated March 9 and addressed to parliamentary leader Wu Bangguo -- include British author Salman Rushdie, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer of South Africa and Chinese writer Ma Jian.

Liu, a 54-year-old writer and former professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December on subversion charges, a year after he co-authored "Charter 08", a bold manifesto calling for political reform in China.

His sentence was upheld on appeal in February.

"We believe that Dr Liu was arrested solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under China's constitution and by international law," the letter released by the rights group said.

"We believe further that the crime of incitement to subvert state power as currently defined in Chinese law violates international human rights standards," it said, calling for Liu's immediate release "without conditions".

China's National People's Congress is currently holding its annual 10-day session.

The NPC, with up to 3,000 members, has no real legislative power but meets to rubber-stamp the decisions of the Communist Party elite in an annual ritual aimed at putting a veneer of democracy on China's rigid political system.

The writers, scholars and activists said it was "urgent that China's National People's Congress ensure that no one is sent to prison simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views".

Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which released the letter, called Liu's imprisonment a "stain on China's reputation and standing in the world".

Charter 08 called for the overhaul of China's one-party communist system and the protection of human rights. According to China Human Rights Defenders, an activist network, more than 10,000 people have signed the document.

The charges brought against Liu also related to anti-government articles written by him that were posted online.

The charge of "incitement to subvert state power" is commonly brought against those who voice opposition to the ruling party.

Liu was previously jailed over the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

His conviction sparked swift condemnation from the United States and Europe, which demanded his release.

MySinchew 2010.03.10


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